El-Hibri Fuad Blog

Washington Launched Me, But I am Proud to be a Lebanese Dreaming of New Technology – Al Anwar

Posted on: October 15, 2009

By Nihad Tobalian

Lebanese businessman Fuad El-Hibri is the “Entrepreneur of the Year for 2009” for the Washington, DC area, and earned this award from Ernst & Young’s Global Technology Group, which is given to honor businessmen who lead nascent companies to growth in their specialized area of work. He earned this award for leading his American company, “Emergent BioSolutions,” which he transformed from a stumbling company into a pioneer company in the field of development of medical vaccines. What are the details of this award, and the types of vaccines that the 51-year-old El-Hibri has developed?

During a meeting with Anwar, businessman Fuad El-Hibri, who spends his annual vacation in Lebanon, said:

From this award, “Ernst & Young” is seeking major companies that apply quality standards of work and production and the ability to develop new products, against the contribution of these companies in the development and preservation of the community. What helped us as “Emergent BioSolutions” to win this award, specifically for the category of technology in the Washington metropolitan area, is our adherence to the requirement of the award, especially after the recent acquisition of the company, which was for sale for approximately $25 million, and which has 170 employees. Through expansion and development strategy, the price of the company rose to between 400 and 500 million dollars, according to the New York Stock Exchange, as the price per share has risen from six dollars ten years ago to 26 dollars, in addition to increasing the number of employees to 600 employees, which helped us to increase the volume of our business, especially since our approved strategy was also based on a policy of expansion through the acquisition of three money losing companies in the United States, Britain and Germany.

Overseeing Companies

“Ernst & Young,” explains businessman Fuad El-Hibri, “is a global financial company that exercises financial control over companies, and honors those who achieve their aspirations and consequently, their achievements in the creative and innovative areas in the field of technology. After that, a panel of judges selects a ‘Leading Businessman.’ Ernst &Young selected me as the pioneer businessman for 2009 in the field of technology, in my capacity as owner of the company ‘Emergent BioSolutions.’ And while I am proud of the award, I am also proud of every employee in the company, because they all, in addition to being loyal to the company, believe in what we do, and devote themselves to work, especially since the scope of our work requires protecting human life. It is true that the company has a business face, but the primary nature of our work is to protect human life through the development of vaccines that will provide them with immunity against disease. The motto with which we operate the commercial side does not negate the human aspect.”

Oxford University

● You spoke about the specialized vaccines that the company you own develop. What are these vaccines? And against which diseases do they work?

– We are currently working on the development of several new vaccines, including a vaccine for tuberculosis. We, in this regard, are working to develop a special vaccine for this disease, and I can say we are in the advanced stages of testing which we have conducted in South Africa, as we are in the second stage, Phase b, results of which have been encouraging. After two years of testing this vaccine on a sample of children to determine its potency, we have reached the stage of measuring the potency and immunity of the vaccine. If the tests are successful tests, then we will move on to Phase III of the trials to expand the tests to include the category of adults who provide material support for the companies developing the typhoid vaccine. We also receive support from the “Wellcome Trust,” while our partner in these trials is the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

The second vaccine—according to El-Hibri—is related to hepatitis B, which would, if successfully tested, provide immunity for patients with this disease. It would also provide a treatment for the chronic diseases resulting from hepatitis B. Businessman Fuad El-Hibri explains, “Patients who suffer from this disease often experience hepatitis B turning into a chronic disease, which may lead, in advanced stages, to liver cancer or liver failure for good. The vaccine, which we are currently developing, helps the patient’s body to protect itself against the disease in terms of reducing and limiting the progress of the disease and limiting its spread in the body. If I were to be optimistic, I would say that this vaccine could eliminate the disease completely, but today, I would say that if we were able to alleviate the pressure of this disease on the patient’s body, then we would have achieved a great result in this area, namely the prevention of the deterioration of the patient’s health. With respect to this vaccine, we have reached the second phase of testing which was conducted on a sample of citizens in China.

A New Medical Development

● What about the work on a vaccine for cancer, for which effective medical treatments have not been found?

– We are working on a number of vaccines for multiple diseases, including for example, work on the development of a vaccine to increase the effectiveness of an old vaccine. For example, there is an effective vaccine for typhoid, but we are working to develop a single dose vaccine, to be administered orally, not with a needle. As for internal diseases, such as internal inflammations for example, we have two technical working groups at the company studying the possibility of trying to find volunteers to receive these vaccines. However, I think it is premature to talk about this vaccine, because we are still in the early stages of the work, and specifically, we are still at the exploration stage. However, in this connection, if we were to look at this issue from a scientific point of view, vaccines are the most advanced in the pharmaceutical industry. Biological studies have shown that vaccines, and immunity enhancement and vaccination are more mature in biological research than they are in the pharmaceutical industry.

● Those who are familiar with your curriculum vitae will find that you specialize in economics. What led you to work in the medical treatment field?
– By nature, I love to work on the development of medical treatments. True, I specialized in economics, where I got a diploma from Stanford University and then an advanced degree in business from Yale University, then worked as head of the Operations Department at Citibank Group and then in Hamilton, and both were of consulting nature that encompass different industries, from the financial industry to beverages to research management. After that, I moved to work for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, but above all I love to work on the development of medical treatments, even though I do not have any scientific background in the field of medicine. However, the nature of my work in these institutions and companies helped me to get into this area. In addition, I was lucky to have a wonderful team that helped me and taught me, because the working group has a scientific background and its members are dreamers like me. They have taught me and helped me to penetrate this field.


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