Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., CEO took winding path to biodefense

Fuad El-Hibri has taken an usual and circuitous path to becoming the CEO of the Rockville, Maryland, based pharmaceutical company Emergent Biosolutions, Inc.

El-Hibri has lived and worked in a number of exotic locations locations. In Saudi Arabia, he worked at Citicorp, and he consulted for Booz Allen Hamilton in Indonesia and was a startup telecommunications executive in Russia and Venezuela, according to the Washington Post.

The path to El –Hibri’s current Maryland location began at a public auction in Lansing, Michigan, in 1998, where he offered a $25 million package of cash and commitments to privatize a government-run facility that was being used to produce an anthrax vaccine.

Since that point, El-Hibri has worked to turn what has become known as Emergent BioSolutions, Inc. into a business that posted earnings of $31.1 million in 2010.

The CEO was born to a Lebanese father and a German mother, and split his time between the two countries while growing up. After finishing school at Stanford, El-Hibri went directly to Yale business school to earn his graduate degree, the Washington Post reports.

El-Hibri wished to open his own company, but needed experience first. After marrying, he began to work for Citicorp in Saudi Arabia before moving to Indonesia with Booz Allen. At one point, he helped a state-owned Malaysian petroleum company open up convenience stores with its gas stations.

In the late 1980s, El-Hibri was in the United States, running his own Potomac-based consulting firm. There, he began to work with a Moscow-based telecommunications firm to build a mobile network that is still in use.

After selling his interest in the firm, he partnered with his father to create mobile networks in Venezuela and El Salvador.

Not long after, the now chief executive of Emergent BioSolutions, Inc. became involved in a venture to sell $50 million worth of anthrax to the Saudi government, the Washington Post reports. His interest in the biotech field grew and, after leading a management buyout of a British biotech, El-Hibri set out to buy the only facility in the United States that produced a Food and Drug Administration approved anthrax vaccine.

Emergent Biosolutions, Inc., is still best known for its anthrax vaccine, for which it recently received a contract worth $107 million, but the company is also working on a pandemic flu vaccine and a tuberculosis vaccine.

El-Hibri does not, however, think he will stay in the biotech field forever. He told the Washington Post that he would like to work with the environment next.