World events have kept Emergent BioSolutions at the center of the biopharmaceutical world for more than twenty years. It started as a private company that manufactured one product—BioThrax—to protect military members from anthrax exposure. After the attacks of September 11 and related anthrax letter incidents, production of the product (the only FDA-licensed anthrax vaccine) increased.
Since then, Emergent has continued its legacy of developing and producing vaccines and therapies to address ongoing public health threats. After a decade of sustained growth driven by BioThrax, leaders diversified the organization, expanding Emergent’s products, facilities, and workforce. By 2020, the company had added well-known products like NARCAN Nasal Spray and created a robust portfolio of vaccines, therapeutics, devices, and drugs. At the end of 2021, the publicly traded company had approximately 2,400 employees and more than $1.5 billion in total annual revenue.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, world events once again put Emergent in the spotlight. To date, the company has manufactured and released over 120 million dose equivalents of COVID-19 vaccines and partnered with multiple innovators to produce antibody-based therapeutics against COVID-19.
Jennifer Fox is Emergent BioSolutions’ senior vice president of legal affairs and deputy general counsel. She’s helping the company pursue continued growth through its five-year diversification strategy. “Times are changing, and biopharmaceutical companies have to meet demands like we’ve demonstrated the ability to do at Emergent BioSolutions,” she says. “Leaders in this environment have to plan for where they’re going to be instead of focusing on where they are.”
A unique background helps Fox guide Emergent through the ever-changing landscape. The legal leader has experience in many areas of the life sciences. She grew up in small-town Pennsylvania, and as the daughter of a chemist, inherited a passion for learning. She graduated from high school early and first studied architecture before switching to science. Fox earned a BS in biology and an MS in biochemistry and molecular biology. She published peer-reviewed papers, attracted recruiters, and eventually took a job as a staff scientist studying cytochrome P450 enzymes at the National Institutes of Health.
After two years, Fox moved to GSK to focus her research on endocrine cancers and metabolic disorders. She was more than a research scientist—she was becoming an inventor. Ongoing research and development slowly exposed Fox to patent law, and she started to collaborate with GSK’s legal intellectual property team. Those conversations sparked an interest, and before long, Fox was working as a patent agent at GSK.
The intersection of science and law intrigued Fox, and she enrolled in North Carolina Central University School of Law’s evening program. Upon graduation, she worked as an IP attorney at two different life science companies, then started a small law firm’s life sciences group, and later spent seven years at Brinks, Gilson & Lione, where she was cochair of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology practice group as well as a member of the board of directors and executive management team.
Fox joined Emergent in late 2018 to help the company diversify and grow. She’s calling upon all of her experience and expertise to help her legal team members support the products their business colleagues develop, manufacture, and sell. “Lawyers in this industry that also understand science can assess certain risks differently because we have a deeper understanding of potential technical challenges and outcomes in addition to the business-related ones,” Fox explains. She doesn’t have to stop to learn the difference between mRNA vaccines and viral vector-based vaccines before advising on a licensing strategy for the respective technologies, for example.
Emergent has nearly two dozen candidates in its development portfolio. In addition to supporting their development, Fox is working to modernize the in-house legal team. She’s implementing artificial intelligence tools and other emerging technologies to automate more routine tasks and make her department more efficient and more responsive, ultimately allowing the team to spend the majority of its time on high-value work rather than routine but important tasks.
The nimble department helps the company navigate multiple legal challenges but also plays an important role in supporting its core business through its government procurement contracts, its commercial product sales (including NARCAN [naloxone hydrochloride] Nasal Spray), and its contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) services such as those provided to Providence Therapeutics for its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate or to Humanigen’s for its monoclonal antibody product.
The development, Fox says, underscores Emergent’s commitment to innovation and technology. “We’ve always been committed to doing new things to address new problems that arise,” she says. BioThrax is the only FDA-approved vaccine that protects against anthrax exposure. In 2015, it became the first vaccine to receive approval for a new indication under the FDA Animal Rule.
Emergent has also developed public-private partnerships and a network of manufacturing campuses that harness single-use technologies to produce critical vaccines and therapeutics. This is the infrastructure Emergent Biosolutions is leveraging as part of its goal of becoming a Fortune 500 global life sciences company that will protect or enhance one billion lives by 2030.
Editor’s note: Biothrax and NARCAN are registered trademarks of Emergent BioSolutions.
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