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Court denies Myriad motion to block rival genetic tests

(Reuters) - Myriad Genetics Inc said a U.S. court denied its motion to temporarily stop rival Ambry Genetics Corp from selling products similar to Myriad's gene-based cancer test, the latest setback for the diagnostics company.

Myriad's shares fell 12 percent before the bell on Tuesday.

Myriad's problems started last June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the company could not patent naturally occurring human genes, curbing the company's monopoly over a type of gene-based cancer testing.

That ruling allowed other test makers, including Quest Diagnostics Inc and privately held Ambry, to develop and market the so-called BRCA tests.

The tests are used to detect a type of inherited breast cancer by searching for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that dramatically increase a woman's risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

These mutations account for about 20-25 percent of hereditary breast cancers and about 5-10 percent of all breast cancers, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Myriad shot to fame last year when Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie announced that she underwent a double mastectomy after Myriad's test showed she carried an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer without the surgery.

Breast cancer is estimated to have killed over half a million women worldwide in 2011, according to the World Health Organization.

INJUNCTION DENIED

Myriad had filed a complaint against Ambry in the U.S. District Court of Utah last July, alleging that Ambry's tests infringed its patents.

The company was also seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent Ambry from selling the tests, pending final decision on the case.

In a March 10 ruling, the court said Myriad was not entitled to a preliminary injunction since the company failed to establish that it was likely to succeed on the merits of its claims.

Myriad said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that it believed its patents were valid, enforceable and infringed, and was confident that it would prevail based on the full evidence.

A trial date has not been scheduled, Myriad said.

Myriad shares were down 12 percent at $33.21 before the bell. Quest shares rose nearly 1 percent.

(Reporting by Esha Dey in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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