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Balancing the up and downstream: Repligen CEO talks R&D and M&A

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Repligen talks product diversification through M&A and R&D
Repligen’s customer GE Healthcare opted to make its latest Protein A ligand in-house, but CEO Tony Hunt remains confident in his firm’s long-term partnerships and diversified bioprocessing offering.

Last week​, GE Healthcare launched its latest Protein A resin MabSelect PrismA, revealing it was making the ligand’s both in-house and through an undisclosed third-party manufacturer.

But the revelation that GE was not using its long-term ligand supplier Repligen for the new monoclonal antibody capture resin led to a 14% drop in Repligen’s share price. Jefferies’ analyst Brandon Couillard even claimed the announcement had long-term negative implications for the Waltham, Massachusetts-based firm’s “virtual monopoly in bulk protein A ligands.”

But according to CEO Tony Hunt, Repligen continues to have strong working relationships with GE, MilliporeSigma and its other Protein A ligand customers.

“We have contracts that run with GE until the end of 2019 and 2021, and with Millipore until the end of 2023,”​ he told Biopharma-Reporter in Boston. “GE’s decision to bring ligand manufacturing for this one resin in-house is part of what they even said was a business continuity plan, and we expect to be providing ligands into the future for both companies.”

Becoming a bioprocessing firm

Hunt arrived at Repligen in 2014 from Life Technologies, since acquired by Thermo Fisher.

Biopharma-Reporter spoke to Repligen's CEO Tony Hunt in Boston

Coupled with a number of bolt-on acquisitions, his approach to increase the firm’s R&D effort has helped diversify Repligen’s business away from Protein A. But far from being a protection strategy, Hunt told us such product diversification was key in becoming a major player across the bioprocessing space.

“If you want to be a bioprocessing company you need to have great technology both upstream and downstream. So from the day I started at Repligen, my goal was really around getting the R&D engine started.”

As an example, the firm has been expanding its OPUS chromatography product range over the past few years, along with its manufacturing capacity, on the back of continued demand for single-use and prepacked columns.

“What we have right now is probably one of the best R&D engines in the industry,” ​Hunt said.

M&A activity

“The other part of the blueprint has been around finding great technology through M&A and so in my tenure we have done four deals.”

The firm staked its place in the upstream by buying Refine’s Alternating Tangential Flow (ATF) system in 2014​. Meanwhile 2016’s Atoll buy​ directly complemented the OPUS offering, and the €37m acquisition of Novasep’s TangenX technologies​ the same year expanded its presence in the filtration space.

“Now we have those balanced upstream and downstream set of technologies which are a far cry from where Repligen was three-and-a-half years ago,”​ Hunt said. “We’re not a commodity company and don’t want to get into commodity products. We believe what we have done is built a really great portfolio of technologies that are addressing things like single-use and continuous manufacturing.”

He told us the firm’s push into perfusion and continuous manufacturing would reap its rewards over the next ten to fifteen years as industry embraces such technology, but was also confident in the firm’s shorter-term growth.

“You’re going to see a lot more products coming out of Repligen and our R&D funnel over the next 2-3 years,”​ he said. However, “that’s not to say we won’t be opportunistic looking at other technologies: when we look at external partners – whether partnerships or M&A – there are going to be a number of new opportunities for Repligen.”

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