United Biomedical Inc. has been issued a U.S. patent fortechnology underlying its hepatitis C test.

Patent No. 5,106,726, issued Tuesday, covers synthetic peptidesspecific for the detection of antibodies to HCV, diagnosis of HCVinfection and HCV vaccines.

UBI's HCV enzyme immunoassay (ELIZA) test is marketed byOrganon Teknika in Europe and Asia as a screening test fordonated blood and to aid in diagnosis of HCV infection. UBI isnegotiating with Organon regarding U.S. marketing rights.

The privately held Hauppauge, N.Y., company filed a productlicense application with the FDA in January.

UBI's product would compete with Chiron Corp.'s second-generation HCV diagnostic, said Chang-Yi Wang, UBI's chiefscientific officer. Chiron's test, which is marketed by OrthoDiagnostic Systems, was approved by the FDA last month.

Chiron (NASDAQ:CHIR) filed in 1987 for a broad patent on itstechnology, which hasn't issued. "We believe our U.S. patentwould cover hepatitis C antigens made in any way," saidspokesman Larry Kurtz. "We believe it would cover UBI'spatent."

"If Chiron's patent issues with very broad claims, we will go tocourt to challenge them," Wang said.

Chiron, Ortho Diagnostic Systems Inc. and Ortho DiagnosticSystems Ltd. sued Organon Teknika in the United Kingdom inJanuary, after Chiron's patent issued there. "We will file suit inevery country as the patents are issued," Kurtz said.

Both Kurtz and Wang agreed that Chiron's test doesn't infringeon UBI's patent.

Chiron shares on Wednesday closed at $38.50, up 25 cents. --Karen Bernstein

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