Chiron Corp. and its immunodiagnostic business partner, OrthoDiagnostic Systems Inc., have filed suit in Germany againstMurex Diagnostica GmbH and Murex Diagnostics Ltd. (units ofInternational Murex Corp.) for infringing three issued patentscovering Chiron's hepatitis C virus (HCV) invention in Germany.

The suit is based on Murex's importation and sale in Germanyof HCV diagnostic tests.

The claims in the three patents cover the recombinantproduction of antigenic HCV polypeptides, the use of suchpolypeptides or HCV antibodies in immunoassays, and HCVimmunoassay kits.

Chiron (NASDAQ:CHIR) and Ortho, a unit of Johnson & Johnson,developed a microplate test to detect the presence of HCVantibodies and began marketing it in Japan and Germany in1989 and in the U.S. and other European countries in 1990.Chiron of Emeryville, Calif., was issued a patent in the UnitedKingdom for the test in 1992; a patent is pending in the U.S.

Murex (ASE:MXX) began marketing its test in 39 countries in1992. Chiron and Ortho brought a suit against Murex in the March 1992, but not before the pair had filed suit -- also inthe U.K. -- against Organon Teknika Ltd. and United BiomedicalInc.

The two cases were consolidated; earlier this month the Britishpatents court ruled that Chiron's patent claims for its HCV testare valid but not currently enforceable. Murex's vice chairmanand chief executive officer, Robert Cusick, said his companyintends to appeal the British ruling.

The HCV test has been a big money-maker for the Chiron/Orthojoint business. For its part, Chiron brought in pretax profits of$74 million in fiscal 1992 and $39.2 million for the first sixmonths of 1993.

Moreover, Chiron and Ortho just last week were awarded athree-year exclusive contract to supply the American Red Crosswith four of the joint business' blood diagnostic assays,including for HCV. The American Red Cross collects and screensabout half of the units of whole blood donated annually in theU.S. -- 7 million units.

Chiron's stock gained $1.88 Friday, closing at $80.50.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.