Chiron Corp. and its business partners Ortho Diagnostic SystemsInc. and Ortho Diagnostic Systems Ltd. have sued OrganonTeknika Ltd., claiming infringement of Chiron's U.K. patent onhepatitis C virus (HCV).

The suit was filed in the High Court of Justice for England andWales on Wednesday.

Chiron and Ortho developed a microplate test to detect HCVantibodies. They allege that Organon is importing and sellingHCV diagnostic tests that use technology covered by the patent.

The test imported by Organon is made by United BiomedicalInc., a U.S. company. United Biomedical is not named in the U.K.suit because it sells to Organon at that company's headquartersin Belgium, and Organon exports the test to its Britishsubsidiary.

Chiron spokesman Larry Kurtz told BioWorld that HCV salesaccounted for the majority of the more than $200 million insales by the Chiron-Ortho collaboration in 1991.

Chiron scientists have characterized the virus causing mostcases of non-A, non-B hepatitis. The Emeryville, Calif., companyand its Ortho partners brought an antibody test for thehepatitis C virus to market in 1989.

The test is used worldwide to screen blood donations for thevirus. A second-generation screening test, as well as asupplemental HCV test in an alternative format, have beendeveloped by Chiron and Ortho, and both are already on theEuropean market.

The U.K. patent that issued Wednesday, No. GB2,212,511,covers the antigenic viral polypeptides, antibodies to the virus,use of both in immunoassays, use and composition of viruspolynucleotides, vaccines based on all these molecules, andtests for the virus based on DNA probes and polymerase chainreaction.

Chiron shares (NASDAQ:CHIR) fell $2 to $64.50.

-- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

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