Joseph Papa, after leaving Bausch, begins another turnaround project as CEO of Emergent BioSolutions

Joseph Papa has reemerged nearly a year after stepping down as head honcho of Bausch + Lomb.

The pharma veteran has been named the CEO of Emergent BioSolutions, which, like the last company that Papa took over, is working on a business turnaround.

Papa, 68, succeeds Haywood Miller, who transitioned from an advisory role to become interim CEO in June 2023, when Emergent’s then-helmsman Robert Kramer retired.

Seemingly pleased with Papa’s appointment, investors sent Emergent’s stock price up by around 80% at around 11 a.m. Wednesday. Still, Emergent shares have been on a multiyear slide, dropping from about $125 apiece in early 2021 to a low of less than $1.6 per share earlier this month.

In a statement, Emergent’s chairman Zsolt Harsanyi, Ph.D., highlighted Papa’s “solid track record of driving growth and successfully navigating companies through periods of transformation.” The former Bausch exec will be key to improving Emergent’s balance sheet and returning the company to growth, Harsanyi said.

With this role, Papa is taking on another turnaround project. 

When he leaped from Perrigo to Valeant Pharmaceuticals in 2016, Valeant faced multiple investigations into its marketing strategies, mounting debt following an aggressive M&A campaign, public criticism over price hikes, lackluster sales and tension with investors. At that time, Papa was credited for growing Perrigo into a multibillion-dollar business. 

By early 2018, Valeant had lowered its debt by more than $6 billion, divested some noncore brands and resolved some of its lawsuits, even though the Canadian firm wasn’t entirely out of the woods.

That year, Valeant also changed its name to Bausch Health, which in 2020 announced the Bausch + Lomb spinoff. Papa managed the eyecare specialist for three years before handing the baton to Brent Saunders in March 2023.

Afterward, Papa took on the chairman role at SparingVision, a gene therapy company focused on ocular diseases. He also took up a part-time job at Water Street Healthcare Partners, an investment firm.

For its part, Emergent finds itself in a similar situation as Valeant did in 2016. Besides the severe share-price losses, executive turnover has hit the company in recent years.

As a contract manufacturer, Emergent garnered praise early in the pandemic for helping produce COVID-19 vaccines for Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. But a mix-up at its Baltimore plant and subsequent media exposure culminated in a damning congressional investigation that damaged the company’s reputation. An investor lawsuit followed.

Last August, Emergent unveiled a business pivot, which involved de-emphasizing its CDMO business to focus only on existing clients. Under the plan, Emergent said it would lay off about 400 employees and scale back its two manufacturing facilities in Maryland. The company expected the reorganization to save more than $100 million in annual costs starting this year.

The company is now focusing on medical countermeasures, including anthrax vaccines, plus the opioid overdose reversal agent Narcan, which became available over the counter last year. In February 2023, Emergent sold its travel health business, including vaccines for typhoid fever and cholera, to Bavarian Nordic for up to $380 million.

Emergent in 2022 beefed up its countermeasure portfolio with the acquisition of Tembexa, an antiviral approved by the FDA for the treatment of smallpox. The drug also holds potential against mpox, giving the similarities between the two viruses. The company is looking to expand to mpox prevention for the smallpox vaccine ACAM2000, which it bought from Sanofi in 2017.

Without contract manufacturing as a source of growth, Emergent only had $176 million in total liquidity as of September 2023, compared with $779 million in net debt.