Molecular Biosystems Inc. said that the European Patent Officeon Wednesday granted it a broad antisense patent that thecompany said covers compounds in development at otherbiotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

The claims in European patent No. 0092574 cover anyantisense oligonucleotide of 14 to 23 bases that is stabilized toprevent chemical or nuclease degradation and that targetsmessenger RNA. The San Diego company "will enforce anddefend this position vigorously," said Dr. Kenneth Widder,chairman and chief executive officer.

The company would not discuss which other companies couldbe covered by the patent because "we don't want to go afterthem publicly," said spokeswoman Beth Field Wallace. "At thispoint, we are not developing any therapeutic agents. We arebasically just formulating our strategy. We have a number ofoptions, which include litigating or licensing out or selling thetechnology."

Molecular Biosystems (NYSE:MB), which markets imagingagents and diagnostic products, is developing genetic probetechnology through its Syngene Inc. subsidiary. Its stock gained$1.50 Wednesday to $23.75.

The European patent, filed in 1981, is broader than U.S. PatentNo. 5,023,243, issued to the company on June 11, 1991, whichcovers a more specific class of modified oligonucleotides asantisense therapeutics.

-- Kris Herbst BioWorld Washington Bureau

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