Cistron Biotechnology Inc. announced Wednesday that it hasfiled a lawsuit against Immunex Corp. alleging that Immunexmisappropriated its DNA sequence encoding for interleukin-1beta (IL-1b).

The suit was filed on Sept. 28 in the U.S. District Court in NewJersey. Both companies have patents claiming the DNAsequence that encodes the 17,000-Dalton fragment of IL-1b.Cistron licensed its patent from researchers Philip Auron,Charles Dinarello, Andrew Webb, Alexander Rich and SheldonWolff, who filed for a patent on the sequence in May 1984. Thepatent was issued in August 1988. Immunex was issued apatent for the sequence in June 1992.

Immunex (NASDAQ:IMNX) also filed a complaint on Sept. 28 inthe U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington atSeattle seeking declaratory judgment that it did notmisappropriate any trade secrets of Cistron. Immunex ofSeattle also seeks an order enjoining Cistron from claimingrights in Immunex's patents or patent applications and fromclaiming misappropriation of trade secrets.

Cistron's suit states that "upon information and belief, (theAuron, et al patented) sequence was communicated toImmunex" prior to Immunex's patent filing.

Cistron's chairman and chief executive officer, Henry Grausz,said the patent licensed by Cistron contained seven errors in itsDNA sequence. "In filing for its patent, Immunex copied each ofthe seven errors in exactly the same positions," he said. "Theprobability of such an exact duplication occurringindependently is less than that of two people having the samefingerprints."

Grausz said Cistron became aware of the duplication of errorsduring patent interference proceedings. A patent interferenceis currently pending before the U.S. Patent and TrademarkOffice.

The Cistron lawsuit states that since Immunex's patent claimsAuron et al's conception of the DNA sequence, "Auron et al arejoint inventors" and co-owners of the Immunex patent and"any U.S. or foreign applications or issued patents claimingpriority therefrom or relating thereto." The suit says "Immunexhas profited extensively from its use of the misappropriatedDNA sequence in its business to develop products usinginterleukin technology and to raise money to finance itsoperations."

Cistron of Pine Brook, N.J., requests in its lawsuit that Immunexrecognize Auron et al as co-inventors and be ordered to payCistron "actual damages as determined by a full trial on themerits, and punitive and exemplary damages," as well as costsand attorney fees.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

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