Emergent to lay off 400 staffers, eliminate executive position in pivot away from contract manufacturing

Big changes are brewing at Emergent BioSolutions, as the beleaguered contract manufacturer puts its CDMO business on the back burner in a bid to shore up its core medical countermeasures and Narcan businesses.

In turn, the company is also eliminating its chief operating officer role and axing hundreds of jobs.

Tuesday, Emergent said that it’s de-emphasizing its CDMO services business. As part of the move, Emergent will scale back operations at its Bayview facility in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as its plants in Canton, Massachusetts, and Rockville, Maryland.

Emergent’s contract manufacturing business has been on the back foot ever since a highly public cross-contamination mishap resulted in the destruction of hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Looking ahead, Emergent plans to focus on its core portfolio of medical countermeasures and the opioid overdose reversal spray Narcan.

Despite the reductions at its facilities, it will “maintain a level of operations at both Bayview and Canton to ramp up production in response to new demand," Emergent said.

The company plans to lay off around 400 employees across “all areas of the company.” In tandem with other cost reduction initiatives, Emergent’s business pivot is expected to result in yearly savings of more than $100 million, the company explained. The moves will cost Emergent around $20 million—costs it expects to incur in the third quarter of 2023.

The company employed around 2,500 employees at the start of the year, so the cuts will affect some 15% to 20% of the workforce. Already this year, Emergent disclosed 132 layoffs in January and a plan to sell its travel health business to Bavarian Nordic in February, resulting in the separation of another 280 staffers.

Given its shift away from services-based business, the company is also eliminating its chief operating officer role. In turn, Adam Havey, who currently holds the position, will depart the company Sept. 30. Bill Hartzel, senior vice president and head of bioservices, will take over responsibility for manufacturing operations, Emergent said.

While the last few years have certainly been turbulent for Emergent, the company has notched a number of wins in 2023.

In March, Emergent made history when its Narcan nasal spray successfully converted its prescription approval into an over-the-counter FDA nod. The move, which allows Narcan to be purchased in places like drugstores, convenience stores, supermarkets and gas stations, has been trumpeted as a major win for naloxone access in the fight against the U.S. opioid epidemic.

In July, meanwhile, Emergent won full approval for its anthrax vaccine Cyfendus in adults 18 to 65. Under a pre-emergency use authorization, Emergent had provided the Department of Health and Human Services with its anthrax vaccine for emergency preparedness since 2019.