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Peter Meldrum, Who Lost a Fight to Patent Genes, Dies at 71

Category: Science,Science & Tech

Mr. Meldrum married Catherine Marie Roper in 1970. She survives him, as do a son, Christopher; a brother, Daniel; and three grandsons.

He started a venture capital firm, Founders Fund, and in 1991 joined forces with Dr. Skolnick, a genetics researcher and professor at the university, to start Myriad.

“The vision for the company was that we saw a paradigm shift in medicine,” Mr. Meldrum said in 2009, when he was inducted into the Utah Technology Council’s Hall of Fame. The shift was from treating diseases to preventing them, using the newly emerging tools of genetics.

“I told Mark when we started Myriad that the odds of us being successful were one in 10 in the technology field,” Mr. Meldrum recalled in 2016, “so this was probably going to go nowhere. But I told him it’s a fascinating science and it’s going to be fun.”

In response to critics of the BRCA patents, Mr. Meldrum and others argued that the ability to secure such patents was vital to encouraging biotech companies to pursue research.

“Obviously, it’s not only important for Myriad but to the biotechnology and agriculture industries to reinforce the fact that you can get patents on genes,” Mr. Meldrum said in 2011, when an appeals court ruled in the company’s favor in the case that eventually went to the Supreme Court. “That will only encourage innovation and development of products that can save lives and improve the quality of lives.”

As for the cost issue, he argued in a letter to the editor printed in The New York Times in 2013 that insurance made the cost of the test — about $3,000 at the time — negligible for most women, and that the company also had a patient assistance program that paid much or all of the cost for eligible women. More than a million women had used the company’s test at that point, the letter said.

In addition to his work at Myriad, Mr. Meldrum served on the boards of arts organizations like Ballet West and was noted for his philanthropic efforts on behalf of the arts. After retiring, he was chairman of the Meldrum Foundation, a family charity that supports the arts, education and humanitarian efforts.

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