BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has launched an investigation into whether Baltimore-based Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine maker Emergent BioSolutions leveraged a tie with an official of former President Donald Trump to profit from federal contracts.

Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and COVID Oversight Chair James E. Clyburn (D-SC) launched the investigation Tuesday. They said Emergent BioSolutions had a “track record of raising prices and failing to meet contract requirements.”

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They also are investigating whether these actions impeded the nation’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

The company’s CEO, Robert G. Kramer, and Executive Chairman, Fuad El-Hibri, are being asked to testify before the Select Subcommittee on May 19, 2021.

“Specifically, we are investigating reports that Emergent received multi-million-dollar contracts to manufacture coronavirus vaccines despite a long, documented history of inadequately trained staff and quality control issues,” Reps. Maloney and Clyburn said in a statement. “Emergent received $628 million in June 2020 to establish the primary U.S. facility for manufacturing vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.  Dr. Robert Kadlec, who served as Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response under President Trump and previously worked as a consultant for Emergent, appears to have pushed for this award despite indications that Emergent did not have the ability to reliably fulfill the contract.”

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In March, 15 million potential doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were botched due to “human error.” Now the FDA is investigating quality control issues at the company’s Bayview plant.

Last week, the FDA asked Emergent BioSolutions to pause manufacturing of any COVID-19 vaccines while the investigation is underway.

“Nevertheless, the Oversight Committee and the Select Subcommittee have serious concerns regarding the contracts awarded to Emergent,” a press release stated.

“We commend the Biden Administration for moving swiftly to address the manufacturing problems by directing Johnson & Johnson to assume full responsibility for vaccine manufacturing at your company’s plant,” the Chairs wrote. “Nevertheless, we remain concerned about the circumstances that led to the award of this contract under the prior Administration and whether Emergent’s manufacturing errors could hinder vaccination efforts that are critical to saving lives and ending the coronavirus crisis.”

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Maloney and Clyburn are also investigating Emergent’s actions to “unduly influence anthrax vaccine assets currently stockpiled in the Strategic National Stockpile.”

CBS Baltimore Staff