Fuad El-Hibri, who ran a troubled vaccine maker, dies at 64

Fuad El-Hibri, whose biotech company won billions of dollars in government contracts to produce an anthrax vaccine but stumbled in 2021 when he was hired to produce the vaccine. Covid, this company had to discharge the equivalent of 75 million infected doses, died on April 23 at his home in Potomac, Md. He is 64 years old.

His death was announced in a statement by his family. A representative for the family said the cause was pancreatic cancer.

Mr. El-Hibri’s Maryland-based company, Savingent BioSolutions, is a little-known company in the government-contract world, but an influential one: It has launched efforts. extensive lobbying and campaign contributions to secure near-monopoly production of anthrax vaccines in the early 2000s. This contract represents nearly half of the budget for the Strategic National Stockpile, a medical stockpile held in the event of a crisis such as a biological weapon attack or a pandemic.

Although the relationship sometimes attracts scrutiny – including An extensive investigation by The New York Times in March 2021 – that also makes Mr. El-Hibri’s company a seemingly obvious choice to produce the Covid vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Supeent received a $628 million contract from the federal government in 2020.

But in reality, prisent was not ready for such an imposing task. While it has been part of a government program to rapidly scale up vaccine production during emergencies, it has yet to demonstrate such capacity when it started producing a Covid vaccine in January. early 2021.

In March of that year, the company announced that due to worker error, approximately 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine equivalent were contaminated and had to be discarded. The nationwide production shutdown was temporarily shut down, creating a political headache for the Biden administration, which had hoped for a smooth rollout to ease vaccine hesitancy.

Congress opened an investigation, and in May, Mr. El-Hibri, executive chairman of prisent, and Robert G. Kramer, the company’s chief executive officer, testified before the Coronavirus Home Choice Subcommittee.

While both men defended the company and cited the unprecedented challenges with which their mandate presented, Mr. El-Hibri still wrote about the company’s failures.

“The incident of cross-contamination is unacceptable,” he said, “strange.”

About 60 million additional doses were found to be contaminated in June.

Fuad El-Hibri was born on 2 March 1958 in Hildesheim, Germany, the son of Elizabeth (Trunk) El-Hibri, a homemaker, and Ibrahim El-Hibri, an engineer and businessman. He grew up in Lebanon and Germany and graduated from Stanford University in 1980 with a degree in economics. He received his master’s degree in public and private management from the Yale School of Management in 1982.

Mr. El-Hibri started his career with Citicorp in Saudi Arabia and later worked for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton in Indonesia. After returning to the United States, he started a business helping national telecommunications companies upgrade their networks in Russia, Venezuela and El Salvador.

In the 1990s, he advised the Saudi government on its efforts to purchase millions of doses of anthrax vaccine. That experience seeded the idea for what has become the Emerging Biological Solution.

He co-founded the company, originally called BioPort, in 1998. He and his partners, including William J. Crowe, a former admiral, soon won a bid to buy a government laboratory. The government abandoned it in Lansing, Mich, and upgraded it to produce an anthrax vaccine for the U.S. military.

The company changed its name to Savingent BioSolutions in 2004. It went public in 2006.

Although mostly focused on one product and one customer (the company also makes Narcan, which is used to treat opioid overdoses), Savingent has grown rich under the leadership of Mr. El-Hibri, reported sales of $1.5 billion in 2020.

According to an investigation by The Times, the company’s financial success is due in part to its aggressive efforts to capture a large portion of the strategic stockpile’s budget. Many experts consider this a small fraction, given the relatively low risk of widespread anthrax attack and the choice to use inexpensive antibiotics for many cases.

“Purchases are believed to be based on careful judgments by government officials about how best to save lives,” the investigation found, “but many people were also influenced by the bottom line of prisent. “

Mr. El-Hibri and his wife are effective sponsors of the campaign; they gave out nearly $1 million between 2018 and 2021, mostly to Republican candidates. An employee political action committee at prisent spent an additional $1.4 million over the same period.

Those connections proved crucial in the fall of 2020, when prisent was one of two facilities contracted to produce a Covid vaccine. Soon after, Mr. El-Hibri cashed out $42 million in stock and stock options.

After the production failure at prisent went public, the company faced objections from shareholders, including a lawsuit alleging that the company cheated securities by falsely claiming that it had willing to produce a vaccine to increase the value of its stock.

Mr. El-Hibri resigned as president of emerging biological solutions on April 1.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy (Grunenwald) El-Hibri; his mother; his brother, Samir; his sister, Yasmin El-Hibri Gibellini; his daughters, Faiza and Yusra El-Hibri; his son, Karim; and three grandchildren.

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