Jackson Laboratory, the Bar Harbor breeder of mice for medical and scientific research, has filed suit against a Chinese university, alleging Chinese researchers are breeding and reselling strains of mice that Jackson lab has developed.

The suit seeks to force Nanjing University and related research facilities into arbitration over the allegations. It was filed this week in federal court in Bangor.

Jackson lab breeds mice for use in medical research around the world. It develops mice with specific genetic features to enable researchers to study the effects of different illnesses and their treatments on successive generations of mice.

The Maine lab started selling mice to Nanjing University in 2002. The mice have been bred to have an extremely deficient immune system. According to the suit, that allows researchers to introduce human cells or tissues into the mice without triggering an immune system response. The mice are then used for research on human immune function, infectious diseases, diabetes, cancer and stem cell biology, the suit said.

According to the suit, Nanjing University signed a standard purchase agreement for mice with Jackson Lab that allows the university to breed the mice as part of its research into the impact of the diseases and treatment on subsequent generations, but bars it from selling them.

Jackson Lab alleges that the university has offered subsequent generations of the mice for sale on the research labs’ website.

Jackson Lab said it sent a cease-and-desist letter to Nanjing Biomedical Research Institute, an arm of the university, on March 31, 2016, demanding that it stop selling the mice. An official with NBRI told Jackson Lab that it had stopped selling the mice, but Jackson Lab said the institute is still advertising and selling “mice that are clearly the descendants of mice purchased from Jackson for research purposes only.”

Jackson Lab sent another cease-and-desist letter in June, the suit said, and then a July letter demanding that the university and its research facilities go to arbitration over the matter as outlined in the original sales agreement, but the Chinese university and research labs have rebuffed attempts to take the dispute to arbitration.

“To date, Nanjing MARC (Model Animal Research Center) has refused to cease commercial sales of mice descended from Jackson’s originally purchased mice and has refused to arbitrate as agreed,” Jackson Lab said in the court filing.

In addition to forcing arbitration, Jackson Lab also is asking to recover its court costs and wants an order blocking Nanjing University and the research labs from selling mice covered by the sales agreement until the arbitration is complete.

Timothy Shannon, the lawyer for Jackson Labs, declined to comment on the suit.

Court documents indicate that the university was served notice of the suit in China, but the records didn’t indicate whether the school had retained an attorney. It is likely the university would hire legal representation in the United States if it does decide to arbitrate the disagreement.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]