Syngene Inc. has filed a countersuit against Gen-Probe Inc. inU.S. District Court in Southern California in a dispute overpatent rights to genetic probe products.

Gen-Probe sued Syngene and its parent company, MolecularBiosystems Inc. (NYSE:MB), on March 2. The suit alleged thatthe companies infringed Gen-Probe's U.S. patent No. 4,851,330by selling synthetic nucleic acid probe (SNAP) cultureidentification kits for the detection of M. avium complex and M.tuberculosis. The patent covers the detection, identification andquantification of non-viral organisms by targeting ribosomalRNA.

Gen-Probe, which is owned by Chugai Pharmaceutical Co.,contends that Syngene's probes infringe because they alsotarget ribosomal RNA.

Syngene's countersuit claims that its SNAP kits do not infringebecause they target DNA. Syngene also argues that the '330patent is invalid because there is prior art.

The countersuit also claims that Gen-Probe's AccuProbe test forthe identification of M. avium complex and M. tuberculosisinfringes on Syngene's U.S. patent No. 4,948,882. Syngene'spatent covers the method of linking a probe and the enzymethat serves as a label indicating when the probe has boundwith its target.

Both suits ask the court to block manufacture and sale of theother company's probes. No hearings are scheduled, and theactions do not affect either company's current manufacturingor sales, according to the companies, which are both located inSan Diego. -- Kris Herbst

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