BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Epitope Inc. announced Monday that it hasbeen sued by a plaintiff who seeks to represent shareholders inthe company.

The complaint (case No. CV92759RE) was filed in the U.S.District Court for the District of Oregon in Portland by RaynaRagonetti. She is seeking unspecified damages from thecompany and eight of its executive officers and directors basedon alleged misstatements and omissions related to thecompany's application for FDA approval of its OraSure product.

The Beaverton, Ore., company declined to comment, butreleased a statement from President Adolf Ferro, saying: "Webelieve the allegations contained in the complaint are based onan unfortunate misinterpretation of statements taken out ofcontext from internal FDA documents. The company isdiscussing the complaint with counsel and intends to vigorouslydefend the action."

"Obviously, we feel differently," said Ragonetti's attorney,Richard Vial of Hagen, Dye, Vial and Hirschy of Portland. Vialsaid Epitope misled investors by not reporting negativeinformation it was getting from the FDA regarding Orasure.OraSure is Epitope's oral specimen collection device, used tocollect saliva samples to be tested for HIV and drug use.

Epitope last week blamed a steep slide in its stock price onfalse rumors. At that time, Mary Hagen, Epitope's investorrelations coordinator, said the company did not make the FDAreport public because "we were under the impression it wasconfidential information."

The information in question included incorrect sample storageprocedures and failure to adhere to FDA protocol.

The company's stock (ASE:EPT) closed down $1.13 on Mondayat $16.13

In addition to Ragonetti's suit, the law firm of Betts, Pattersonand Mines of Seattle has filed a similar suit on behalf ofplaintiff Michael Rosenburg. Steve Berman, who is acting as co-counsel with Justine Fischer of Portland, said Epitope had "aduty to release this information."

-- Steve Payne BioWorld Staff

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