THE CABINET

Commercial distribution and Diagnostic Grifols

An in-house sales network and international partnerships provide the foundation for a strategy of growth and innovation

Technical file

Type of innovation: Business model

Scope: Clinical Analysis

Innovation leader: Grifols Roura, Víctor

Year: 1987

Period: 1972-2002

Geographical scope: International

Economical impact: High

Level of innovation: Evolutionary

Patent: No

Interdisciplinary connections: Business management

From its foundation, Grifols was a technological pioneer, introducing cutting-edge products to the Spanish market. Many of these devices were developed by the company itself, while Grifols' commercial alliances with foreign partners were also a key source of innovation, particularly in the early days. Another vital element of the company's growth was its decision to create its own sales and support network and to work directly with both clients and professionals.

Gri-Cel and the commercial distribution of diagnostic material

Necessity, as the saying goes, is the mother of invention. There was certainly a great need for inventiveness in Spain following the end of World War Two. In 1951, Dr. Víctor Grifols i Lucas and Dr. Guillem de Celis founded a new company: Gri-Cel. The company was founded with the objective of manufacturing instruments and reagents for the Grifols blood bank which were not available in Spain. It was a logical next step to market and distribute these products to other clients within the country.

In addition to manufacturing such equipment, Gri-Cel also entered into partnership with foreign companies, acting as their representatives to introduce the latest technology to Spain. The first such partner was a British firm, Evans Electroselenium Limited. Gri-Cel signed an agreement to manufacture and market the EEL photocolorimeter under license. This combination of in-house product development and manufacturing, commercial distribution, and international partnerships providing access to the very last technology, meant that Gri-Cel was very much a pioneer of both technological and commercial change within the Spanish hematology sector.

“Gri-Cel was founded with the objective of manufacturing instruments and reagents for the Grifols blood bank which were not available in Spain. It was a logical next step to market and distribute these products to other clients within the country.”

Building links with clients and suppliers

Throughout the 1950s, Gri-Cel gradually expanded its scope, distributing Grifols' own products and third-party products, including the manufacture of ph meters under license from Zurich-based firm, Polymetron, and the distribution of electrodes for these meters, manufactured by another Swiss firm, Ingold. In the course of this activity, Gri-Cel worked closely both with the end clients of the products it distributed and with the original manufacturers of these products. In addition to the direct commercial benefits, this meant that Grifols acquired a wealth of knowledge and experience.

A Transatlantic alliance

A qualitative change came about in 1960, when Grifols formed a partnership with US firm Dade Reagents to create Dade-Grifols and distribute the American company's products in Spain. The next major development was the acquisition of Dade Reagents by American Hospital Supply Corp. Grifols was now in partnership with one of the giants of the US medical supplies sector. This also gave Grifols a foreign outlet for its own products, such as the C-7M centrifuge, which entered the US and the global market.

Another significant development came in 1982, when Dade-Grifols obtained exclusive distribution rights for Spain for Worthington reagents and for Chemetrics autoanalyzers. This was followed in 1984 by the introduction of several new product lines: Stratus, Convertors, and Microscan.

Microscan was a microbiological and anti-biogram identification system based on dry non-standard microtiter plates, and was a huge sales success in Spain. Gri-Cel developed two devices for Microscan: the inoculator and the rehydrator. This project made use of the very latest technology – IBM personal computer systems, which were virtually unheard of in Spain at the time.

The birth of Diagnostic Grifols

As time progressed, the sales networks, technical expertise and business knowledge accumulated by Grifols over the years meant it was ready to take the next step. Víctor Grifols Roura, who would go on to become CEO of the company, played a key role in this development, pioneering the creation and professionalization of Grifols sales network, and introducing best practices observed in the company's foreign partners.

In March 1987, Diagnostic Grifols was founded. Its first task was to design improved versions of the equipment manufactured by Dade-Grifols. In the search for new products, Diagnostic Grifols also established representation and distribution agreements with companies such as Diamed, Diagast, Diamedix, Gen Probe, Labomed, Genetic System, EMS, and Serono. However, Grifols own products such as the Diana autoanalyzer came to play an increasingly important role. Diamed took on global distribution of the processor designed by the R&D team of Diagnostic Grifols to automate the gel agglutination technique. And the next generation of this processor, the innovative Wadiana autoanalyzer, aroused the interest of Ortho Clinical Diagnostics (a Johnson and Johnson company) and of Olympus, both of whom distributed it as part of their immunohematology product portfolio.

In 1997, Grifols decided to restructure the activities of Diagnostic Grifols. The company would concentrate on manufacturing and distributing Grifols' own products, while Movaco, the commercial brand for Grifols products in Spain, would be responsible for handling in-vitro diagnostic products within the country. All products, including medical items, were to be handled by the commercial area, with the sole exception of DiaMed. This meant that DiaMed was the only third-party product handled by Diagnostic Grifols, although perhaps whoever made that decision had a crystal ball, because Diagnostic Grifols would soon obtain a license and become responsible for its manufacture for Grifols markets.

Bibliography

  • Avellà, R., & Miquel, B. (Eds.). (2015). Cuando un sueño se cumple. Crónica ilustrada de 75 años de Grifols. Barcelona: Grupo Grifols, S.A.
  • Grifols, S.A. (2001). Dedicado a la vida... Barcelona: Probitas Pharma, S.A.