ImaRx, MBI lock horns over SonoRx

July 14, 1993

Ultrasound contrast agent developer ImaRx filed suit in May againstcompetitor Molecular Biosystems, alleging that MBI misappropriatedtrade secrets for ImaRx's oral ultrasound contrast agent SonoRx.The Tucson-based ImaRx seeks unspecified damages and

Ultrasound contrast agent developer ImaRx filed suit in May againstcompetitor Molecular Biosystems, alleging that MBI misappropriatedtrade secrets for ImaRx's oral ultrasound contrast agent SonoRx.The Tucson-based ImaRx seeks unspecified damages and injunctiverelief and hopes to have related MBI patents dismissed.

SonoRx is a cellulose-based ultrasound contrast agent thateliminates artifacts by displacing stomach gas. The agent, stillunder development, was invented by ImaRx founder Dr. Evan C. Ungerand Dr. Guan Li Wu. ImaRx claims that San Diego-based MBI misappropriatedSonoRx technology for use in developing its own oral ultrasoundagent, MB-U820.

In addition to filing the civil complaint, ImaRx is challengingtwo patents MBI received for the technology in question. The U.S.Patent and Trademark Office has declared that the subject matterof the ImaRx and MBI patents is close enough that an interferenceproceeding should go forward, according to Suzanne E. Miller,an attorney for ImaRx.

ImaRx also alleges that MBI took from it the idea for two tradenames, Imarex and Luminex. MBI has filed trademark applicationson these two names, according to court documents.

ImaRx entered into a marketing and manufacturing agreementfor SonoRx this year with Squibb Diagnostics (SCAN 3/10/93). ImaRxmaintains that its hand in the Squibb negotiations was weakenedafter MBI received patents for MB-U820.

The legal dispute stems from a visit MBI executives made in1990 to ImaRx facilities in Tucson. ImaRx was looking for a licensingpartner for SonoRx, according to the company's complaint, whichwas filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

After signing a non-disclosure agreement, MBI "receivedextensive information" about ImaRx's efforts to develop ultrasoundand MRI contrast agents, particularly agents for abdominal andgastrointestinal ultrasound imaging via oral or rectal administration.

Discussions regarding the agent continued until MBI announcedpublicly that it was developing a new oral ultrasound agent forabdominal scanning, the complaint states. MBI filed for and wasassigned patents for abdominal ultrasound agents that contained"a substantial amount of the proprietary and confidentialinformation disclosed to MBI" by ImaRx, according to thecomplaint.

"MBI left that meeting and in a breach of the (non-disclosure)agreement, they filed patent applications in their own name basedon Dr. Unger's information," Miller told SCAN.

MBI denies the charges and said its patents are the work ofits own research and development program. MBI intends to defendthe lawsuit vigorously, the company said.

The ImaRx suit is not related to Albunex, MBI's ultrasoundcardiac perfusion agent that is in the final stages of Food andDrug Administration review (SCAN 12/2/92).