Workers process syringes containing drugs at Emergent’s production facility in Baltimore in 2014. ( Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan )

Emergent Biosolutions, a Maryland-based government contractor that helps maintain the U.S. stockpile of infectious disease vaccines, has been doling out a lot of cash this week as it continues to expand its drug portfolio.

Five days after the company agreed to pay $97.5 million to acquire the smallpox vaccine assets of pharmaceutical giant Sanofi it handed another $96 million to GlaxoSmithKline, one of biggest healthcare providers in the world, to acquire raxibacumab, an antibody that treats a form of anthrax that can be inhaled.

Both deals are part of a broader expansion plan that Emergent’s executives hope will turn it into a $1 billion-a-year company by 2020.

For its latest acquisitions, Emergent has mainly targeted what could be highly contagious biological threats, ones that can lead to high mortality rates and can disrupt society, said Adam Havey, Emergent’s executive vice president of business operations.

As the company continues to look for business opportunities to help with its expansion plan, Havey said more deals could come soon.

“We’re still very acquisitive,” he said. “We’re definitely not done. We have active deals in our pipeline. That’s not going to stop or slow down.”

Emergent is publicly traded company that is perhaps best known as the supplier of BioThrax, which is the only anthrax vaccine licensed by the Food and Drug Administration. The company also has products that tackle other biological agents and devices that protect against chemical threats. Recently the company’s facility in Baltimore was named one of the nation’s three Centers for Innovation and Advanced Development. The company employs approximately 1,200 people with more than 500 located in Gaithersburg, Baltimore and the District.

For the first quarter of the 2017 fiscal year, the company reported $116.9 million in revenue, a 13 percent increase from 2016.

The company’s executives are seeking to capitalize on anxieties about biological warfare and the spread of infectious disease internationally.

“There is a concern that there are stashes of smallpox throughout the globe and people aren’t aware of where they all might be,” said Emergent Chief Executive Daniel Abdun-Nabi.

Beyond biological warfare, Abdun-Nabi said there is also growing concern about climate change, and worries that the warming of the globe could open up new ways for diseases to spread.

“There’s a real worry starting to grow across the globe about the re-emergence of pathogens that we might not have seen for a number of years,” he said.

Abdun-Nabi’s firm has been talking to foreign governments looking to update their vaccine stockpiles, and to new customers hoping to build one for the first time.

 

The acquisition from Sanofi buys the firm the rights to the only smallpox vaccine licensed by the FDA that is still actively produced.

It also buys them into a 10-year, $425 million contract with the Centers for Disease Control, which coordinates the U.S. government’s biodefense initiatives. The contract lapses next year, but the company says it plans to try and negotiate a follow-on contract.

With its second deal, Emergent plans to complete raxibacumbab deliveries to the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile by the end of 2019, under the current contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The deal is valued up to approximately $130 million.

Emergent wants to transfer all manufacturing related to the anthrax antibody to its Baltimore facilities in 2020, according to a company press release.

Beyond the recent deals, Havey said the company is mainly looking into products that can be used for treatment in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives. He said the company is currently looking into forms of wound treatment that stem from explosives as a possible purchase for the near future.