LONDON - Two of Europe's leading antibody technology companies will lock horns over patents later this year. A date has been set by the District Court of Munich, Germany, for the preliminary hearing of a patent infringement action brought by Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc (CAT), of Royston, U.K., against Munich-based MorphoSys AG, which last week announced its intention to float on Frankfurt's Neuer Markt.

CAT claims MorphoSys is infringing two of its patents: "Winter et al.," which covers CAT's antibody gene expression libraries; and "McCafferty et al.," which covers CAT's phage display of antibody fragments. Both patents underpin CAT's antibody display technology, used for the rapid isolation of fully human monoclonal antibodies. CAT's libraries currently incorporate around 100 billion distinct antibodies.

MorphoSys has two key technology platforms: Human Combinatorial Antibody Library (HuCAL), which it says rapidly and reliably generates antibodies for protein characterization, target validation, high-throughput screening and other drug discovery applications; and Selectively Infective Phage (SIP), a methodology for efficient screening of large collections of compounds and for determining the function of drug targets.

CAT brought the case in September 1998, and said this week it has received notification that the case will be heard in early summer. A definitive date will be set later. - Nuala Moran