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Congressional Democrats applaud Biden administration for terminating federal contract with Emergent BioSolutions

Two congressional Democrats lauded President Joe Biden’s administration for agreeing to end a federal partnership with a Maryland specialty pharmaceutical company contracted to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, cast doubt Friday on Emergent BioSolution’s claim that the federal government underinvested in its capability to produce COVID-19 vaccines as part of a federal program to provide surge capacity to combat infectious diseases.

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“I am disappointed that Emergent continues to blame the federal government for its own failures, and I applaud the Biden Administration for holding them accountable,” Clyburn said in a Friday statement. “Despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars and having years to prepare, Emergent wasted taxpayer funds and was unable to reliably produce uncontaminated coronavirus vaccines.”

Maloney and Clyburn launched the congressional investigation of the Gaithersburg-based pharmaceutical company after it halted production following a cross-contamination event at its East Baltimore plant that rendered millions of doses unusable. The plant, located near Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, is still not fully authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to distribute vaccines, according to the regulatory agency.

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Federal regulators in April documented a series of quality control and mismanagement problems at the Bayview facility, including inadequate waste handling, poor facility maintenance and upkeep and insufficient personnel training. Before the cross-contamination incident, Emergent had been producing both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, and the latter of which came out of a contract with the federal government’s Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing program.

Emergent resumed production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines in July, and federal regulators have been reviewing each batch before deciding to authorize them. So far, 11 batches of Johnson & Johnson and three batches of AstraZeneca have been cleared for use, amounting to more than 100 million doses in all, Emergent spokesman Matt Hartwig said Friday.

The end of the partnership officially ends Emergent’s commitment to provide the federal government with space in the facility. Production of the AstraZeneca vaccine was moved out of the facility earlier this year.

Energent CEO Robert Kramer said Thursday during an earnings call with investors that Emergent proposed ending the partnership and mutually agreed to terms with the federal government. In a guest commentary piece in The Baltimore Sun, Kramer also said both Emergent and the government knew the risks of producing two vaccines at the facility at the same time, but went ahead with the plan anyway.

Hartwig has said previously that only one batch of vaccine, in all, was tarnished in the cross-contamination incident. Millions more were tossed due to their proximity to the faulty batch, he said.

In May, Maloney and Clyburn said their preliminary investigation into the company revealed Emergent’s failure to address existing “deficiencies” at the Bayview plant. The lawmakers expanded their investigation in June.

Emergent also faces a shareholder lawsuit for its performance during the pandemic. Its shares continued plunging Friday, losing more than a third of their value to close at $33.17, down $19.50 from the day before.

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