Repligen Corp., in a slide the past year, merged Friday with aprivately held company in a move that will bring back three scientistswho helped initiate a number of Repligen's programs.

The merger of Repligen, of Cambridge, Mass., and GlycanPharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, was accomplished though anundisclosed stock swap. Glycan was formed in April 1993 by threeRepligen scientists to apply carbohydrate technology to drugdevelopment.

One of the scientists, Walter Herlihy, will become president and CEOof Repligen, replacing Sandford Smith, who will remain a director.The other two coming back to Repligen are James Rusche, as vicepresident, research and development, and Daniel Witt, who will bevice president, business development.

"There's certainly been a decline in shareholder value at Repligen thelast couple of years," Herlihy said. "It's been a difficult couple ofyears, but hopefully we can help stabilize the situation. Our goal is torestore Repligen to the high quality research focus that it has had _and been respected for _ in the past, and to selectively advanceexisting clinical programs."

The merged company, in which Glycan will be a wholly ownedsubsidiary, will have about 20 employees, about 10 each from eachcompany.

Repligen had more than 300 employees in March 1994 before aseries of restructuring moves implemented to conserve cash andnarrow the company's focus. Since that time Repligen sold off its co-stimulatory molecules program to Genetics Institute Inc., ofCambridge, and is in negotiations to sell its Protein A technology anddiagnostic reagents business, as well as its Allegro Biologics unit, toGenzyme Corp., of Cambridge. In September 1994 Eli Lilly and Co.,of Indianapolis, discontinued a collaboration in the area of antibody-based drugs for inflammatory diseases. Before that, Medco ResearchInc., of Research Triangle Park, N.C., backed out of a merger thatwould have been worth $51.5 million of Medco stock to Repligenshareholders.

Repligen's stock (NASDAQ:RGEN) closed unchanged Friday at$1.38. Repligen on Dec. 31, 1995, reported having $10 million incash and 15.4 million shares outstanding.

Avery Catlin, Repligen's vice president, finance, said it's been adifficult 18 months at Repligen, and the company looked at a numberof options. "The positive news," he said, "is these guys [fromGlycan] are intimately knowledgeable about Repligen's technology.In some cases, they initiated or were instrumental in starting theseprograms.

"They have a working knowledge base to out-license or rejuvenatethese programs and refocus Repligen, to bring back some scientificexcellence," Catlin said.

Catlin said the new management team is developing a strategicdirection for the merged entity.

Glycan has a series of high-throughput screening assays beingapplied to proteins that might be important in diseases involvinginflammation and hyperproliferation, Herlihy said. It also hascombinatorial chemistry technology, and a few ongoingcollaborations.

Repligen's lead program centers around recombinant platelet factor 4(rPF4), which has completed Phase II studies for reversal of heparinin bypass surgeries and completed Phase I trials in cancer indications.

Repligen has all rights to the work done with Lilly, which focused oncreating monoclonal antibodies targeting the CD11b receptor onneutrophils. That product has been in Phase I studies. Bothcompanies have early work in chemokines and other areas, andHerlihy said they will look at bringing in new technologies. He saidthe plan likely will be to focus on one or two of the programs thatappear most promising. n

-- Jim Shrine

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