It Tossed Millions of Vaccine Doses. That's Not Its Only Problem

Stock trades by Emergent BioSolutions' CEO now being examined
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2021 11:21 AM CDT
It Tossed Millions of Vaccine Doses. That's Not Its Only Problem
A file photo of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

It looks like Emergent BioSolutions' woes may not be restricted to the millions of vaccine doses it had to trash because of issues at its Baltimore-area plant. CEO Robert Kramer is now in the crosshairs over what ABC News calls a "weeks-long stock transaction" that netted him north of $7.6 million—a move made prior to the company's failings being made public. But the issues were known to Emergent, which by the time Kramer's stock deal wrapped up, had discarded ingredients that had been intended for millions of Johnson & Johnson doses over quality control issues; millions of doses' worth of AstraZeneca's vaccine had also been ditched. More on the current state of the company, which landed a $628 million federal vaccine contract last June:

  • CNN has a timeline and specifics: Kramer sold just shy of 100,000 shares Jan. 15 and Feb. 26. The average share price works out to be $113.73. It closed at $63.13 on Thursday. Had Kramer not sold, the value of the shares would be down about $5 million. The Washington Post calls it Kramer's "first substantive sales of Emergent stock since April 2016."

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren weighed in, per ABC News, saying Emergent "took millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, made big promises about its capabilities—and then utterly failed in the midst of this public health crisis. This is another example of the Trump administration's questionable contracting decisions that requires extra scrutiny." She wants the SEC to investigate.
  • A rep for the company said Kramer's stock transactions were planned in November, a common move for executives looking to avoid scrutiny over timing or motivation. The Post gives the date as Nov. 13, and flags an earlier New York Times article that reported at least one issue popped up before that date: A batch of AstraZeneca’s vaccine was lost to suspected contamination in October.
  • The Post adds that an FDA inspector flagged training and other issues at the site in April 2020, and in July 2020 a company that engaged Emergent to make an experimental ricin vaccine filed a confidential arbitration demand seeking $19 million in damages, saying what Emergent produced didn't adhere to specifications.
  • Warren is not the only one focused on the Trump administration's selection of Emergent. Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and James Clyburn are probing how the company managed to land its hefty contract, with Maloney flagging one contact in common: Dr. Robert Kadlec, who worked in the Trump administration and had previously consulted for Emergent.
  • Kadlec told the Times earlier this month that the contract went to Emergent in part because there aren't many players who can handle Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca production. "We even looked at veterinary vaccine facilities around the country," he said. "We couldn’t find the capacity."
  • The Times gives more context to the inroads the company has made on Capitol Hill. "In Washington, Emergent is known for its aggressive lobbying and government connections spanning both Democratic and Republican administrations. The company’s board is stocked with former federal officials, and its ranks of lobbyists include former members of Congress."
  • Reuters on Thursday reported that Emergent BioSolutions hopes to get back to US regulators within days on what it will do to correct the issues at its Baltimore plant and hopes to "get back into production as quickly as possible." After an FDA inspection, Emergent on April 16 agreed to put a stop to Johnson & Johnson vaccine production. None of the vaccines Emergent has made to date have been administered to Americans. Kramer also announced some executive shake-ups on Thursday. Among those to go: a senior VP of manufacturing.
(Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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