Producing cures, Emergent BioSolutions works to protect people around the world

Made in Maryland
Posted at 9:31 AM, Sep 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-11 18:25:58-04

Made in Maryland is a monthly segment by ABC 2's Cassie Carlisle, showcasing local unsung trades. If you know a company fitting this description email





Threats come in all sizes, some so small you can't see. The damage, however can be catastrophic.

Emergent BioSolutions creates remedies for diseases like cancer and ebola, chemical attacks like anthrax, as well as those against our troops, like mustard gas.

Emergent Biosolutions' South Baltimore facility.

Emergent has 11 offices worldwide. Their headquarters is in Gaithersburg, and two manufacturing facilities are in Maryland.

Courtesy Emergent BioSolutions

Their work is very serious, and meticulous.

In contrast, walking into their South Baltimore facility, the bobblehead version of their Vice President of the site greets us, showing they find ways to have fun.

Bobblehead of Site Vice President B.J. Hall.

Our tour starts with Director of Manufacturing Brian Cogan.

We'll get to see a little bit about the laboratory testing and the what goes into that, as well as some of our filling and packaging areas. -Cogan



Walking from the bright welcoming lobby chock-full of awards and plaques, we entered a white sterile key-card protected lab.

Scientists in white coats are measuring solutions into flasks. Bottles of all shapes, sizes, and colors with different warning labels sit on the work stations.

Here scientists concoct solutions from scratch creating a control, to measure against the drugs shipped in.

To do that, scientists essentially separate the drug into components to see how much of each component is in the substance and if it is the correct level.

Next door more scientists conduct quality tests, including chromatography.

The process is not one you can watch, instead you hear the whirring of large beige computer looking machines working.

The drugs are tested along each phase to ensure perfection.

The meticulous process reaches another level inside what they call "the honeycomb".

Blood thinning medication precisely dispensed into medical bottles at Emergent BioSolutions.

We washed our hands three times, put on two sets of "booties" and dawned a clean suit to ensure we don't contaminate the process.

Through a thick window, we can see the core where a machine precisely pumps drugs into bottles. The room is pressurized with a unique venting system.

Scientists are covered head to toe, with zero exposed skin to keep the drug sterile.

Every panel in the ceiling is a filter, pushing air down, and out, in case any particles are in the air.

The air then sweeps toward the walls where another vent sucks the air out of the room.

"We take it very serious here. What we do is produce drugs that protect people's lives and the quality of the product of what we're producing is really critical," B.J. Hull, Vice President and General Manager of the site, said.

That critical care continues even after the bottles are sealed.

They are sent to the inspection room for yet another quality check.

So the requirement is that you do 4-7 seconds of a container inspection, and then you have to swirl or invert 5 seconds on white, to look for particles. Swirl or invert 5 seconds on black to look for particles. This is critical because it's the last line of defense before this gets released to the market," -Ernest Williams Jr., Inspection and Packaging Manager.


Inspection Room at Emergent Biosolutions

Each inspector is specially trained and has to pass an eye exam to get this job. As you watch each inspector swirl the vials, if you look carefully enough, you can see small air bubbles and sometimes particles.

The inspectors look not only for imperfections in the drug, but in the bottle as well. If the bottle isn't perfect, it's placed in a bin, then disposed of.

Those that pass the test then move to the final phase, packaging. Here more employees inspect the labels to ensure quality.

The drugs are then sent out to medical suppliers.

"We really have a lot of effort a lot of focus in the Maryland community and a lot of support for protecting our war fighters, protecting our troops. Protecting our nation as well as providing state of the art services to our clients," Sean Kirk, Senior Vice President, said.

Producing cures in M&T Bank Stadium's backyard.