An unusual unanimous Supreme Court decision Thursday barring patents on naturally occurring DNA appeared to do little, if any, harm to biotech companies that research and market tests for genetic abnormalities.
That's because the other part of the long-anticipated Supreme Court decision upheld patents on so-called cDNA, or complementary DNA: a synthetically produced form of genetic material that also can be the basis for such tests.
And the case's defendant, Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics, noted that 75 percent of its business, from BRCA analysis tests that screen for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, remains protected by patents that were not struck down by the Supreme Court decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas.
(Read More: Jolie's Decision Boosts BRCA Test-Maker Myriad)
"This could have had a lot of broad and really unintended consequences if all the patents had gone away," said Doug Schenkel, who analyzes biotech companies for Cowen. "Potentially Monsanto and some of their peers could have been affected if all of their [DNA-based] patents had gone.
"Given you have this mixed outcome, there may be no impact" on the entire biotech sector from the Supreme Court decision, he said. "And if there is an impact, it's not going to be as clear an impact as if you had thrown out all these patents."