Fuad El-Hibri, the founder and executive chair of Emergent BioSolutions which grappled with contamination issues in its COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing efforts, has died, according to the New York Times. He was 64.
El-Hibri founded Emergent — which was at first called BioPort — in 1998 to produce anthrax vaccines for the US military. Emergent additionally received a government contract in the early 2010s to produce other vaccines in case of a pandemic, though the Times reported in April 2021 that Emergent struggled to meet the contract's readiness requirements.
When then tapped to produce vaccines against COVID-19, the company's Baltimore plant, which was manufacturing vaccines from both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, had problems maintaining sanitary conditions and preventing cross-contamination, as the Wall Street Journal then reported. The Times noted then that Emergent had to destroy about 15 million doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. The US placed J&J in charge of the plant and ended its contract with Emergent, as the Washington Post reported.
El-Hibri and Robert Kramer, the chief executive of Emergent, testified before a House of Representatives subcommittee, where they noted the challenges their company faced, the Times says, adding that El-Hibri was apologetic. "The cross-contamination incident is unacceptable. Period," El-Hibri said, according to the Times.