Management of Technological Change


        Repligen was started in 1981, as a firm dedicated to the research of recombinant DNA applications. Founded by two biochemists from MIT, Alexander Rich, M.D., and Paul Schimmel, Ph.D., the company began with financing from Gillette. In January of 1992, we find Sandy Smith at the helm of Repligen, serving as the fourth president and chief executive officer of the company. At this time the company is at a crossroads, as to its diversification efforts.

        Sandy Smith, Repligen’s current CEO, has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Smith has held various management positions in the pharmaceutical industry, including Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Planning for the United States Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Group. Smith was hired as Repligen made the conscious decision to move from being an industrial company to a focus on health care.

The decision to specialize on health care was made in conjunction with the hiring of a new president and chief executive officer in with extensive pharmaceutical industry experience, Sandford D. Smith, in October, 1986. Smith came to Repligen after spending over ten years in management positions at Bristol-Myers Company, most recently as Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Planning for the United States Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Group.

(Harvard Business School, Case 9-294-082, p. 2)

Smith’s major strength is his experience. Smith’s task is to increase the company bottom line and to enhance its profitability. In addition, Smith role is to serve as the rudder in determining the direction in which the company is going. Smith strengths include his ability to link Repligen to the scientific community, the company’s original roots, and his strong management skills. A possible weakness of Smith’s is the fact that the majority of his experience in the field is primarily with a large pharma company, a different animal from a small biotechnology firm. Overall, Smith is well suited for his position at Repligen, based on his experience and management techniques. According to the case, Smith has been a key factor in the company’s ability to turn itself around:

Repligen’s success in rapidly achieving this turn around was also due to two factors. First, the company had an extraordinary scientific depth, owing to its close ties with the academic community. A second factor was the management skills that Smith brought to Repligen. He struggled to preserve Repligen’s strong ties with the scientific community, while at the same time focusing his researchers’ creative energy. A crucial element of his style was “management by small committee,” which in the words of one analyst, ‘allows the company to act on scientific and business decisions with unusual speed and focus.’

(Harvard Business School, Case 9-294-082, p. 3)

        Repligen’s expertise lies in genetic engineering, purification, and manufacturing. The scientific expertise in the company and available to the company is the basis for its existence. This mechanism has a wide variety of applications and it was the original idea of the founders to use these technologies for a variety of applications. In other words, the company was to function in an industrial capacity rather than in a health care capacity. During the time period of this case, Repligen is facing very tough competition against other companies to develop a vaccine for HIV. The company’s attempt to develop an HIV vaccine is good and has a strong possibility to reap valuable profits if the scientists are able to get the vaccine to work. There are large numbers of people who are directly at risk for developing HIV. In addition, a vaccine for the disease would be tremendously helpful in several countries in Africa, in Thailand, and in China, where the HIV epidemic continues to grow or is still running unabated.

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Sales Network/Distribution

        Repligen has a small sales force that was already dedicated to marketing an anti-inflammatory product to cardiologists and oncologists. Repligen required negotiations with a major pharmaceutical company in order to increase its ability to market a new product in development.

        Another issue is Repligen’s value chain. In what aspect of Repligen’s business is the value chain held? The concept of value chain will be applied utilizing the following idea:

According to John Del Vecchio writing for, a value chain is "a string of companies working together to satisfy market demands." The value chain typically consists of one ...

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