A Winning Bid
Founded in 1998, Emergent BioSolutions has gone on to become a multinational biopharma company – despite working in some difficult therapeutic areas, including biodefense.
Jim Jackson |
Tell us the story behind Emergent BioSolutions…
The company was founded in 1998 (we celebrated our 20th anniversary just a few months ago) by Fuad El-Hibri, who is our former CEO and now executive chairman. Essentially, the company came about from a winning bid for assets from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The Department had developed an anthrax vaccine back in the 1960s in collaboration with Michigan State – primarily for use by veterinarian and certain textile workers (anthrax is a ubiquitous soil microbe that is found on the fur, hair, and coatings of certain animals). It is also possible to isolate anthrax spores from spores from natural sources, which can be used as a bioweapon. When the site fell out of regulatory compliance, the state didn’t have enough resources to bring it back up to scratch. Instead they turned it into the Michigan Biologic Products Institute and put it up for bid, with El-Hibri being the winning bidder.
El-Hibri was really interested in the anthrax vaccine because he had worked with Porton Down in a prior life and was familiar with government needs for vaccines against bioterrorism agents. He saw an opportunity to build a company to provide products in a niche pharmaceutical area that traditional big pharma companies were ignoring because they didn’t see a viable business case.
We spent a few years getting the Michigan manufacturing facility back into regulatory compliance. These were difficult times because we weren’t selling, and the fact that we succeeded is testament to the creativity and perseverance of not only the founder, but also the senior management team at the time. We formed a number of collaborations with government agencies and established partnerships very early on to help us get through that period.
Today, we sell our anthrax BioThrax (Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed) to the US Department of Health & Human Services where it’s primarily used for the strategic national stockpile. We also sell to friendly overseas governments.
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