Moroccan researcher tapped to lead Trump's coronavirus vaccine team

Moroccan pharmaceuticals specialist tapped to head US coronavirus vaccine effort
2 min read
14 May, 2020
The White House has nabbed a well-known Moroccan businessman specialising in vaccines to help develop one for Covid-19.
Moncef Slaoui [YouTube]

A Moroccan former pharmaceutical and vaccine specialist has reportedly been scouted by the US in a bid to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which is causing havoc across the world.

A former head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine division, Moncef Slaoui is touted to serve in Donald Trump’s administration to develop the vaccines as vaccine chief head, three sources told Politico.

The venture capitalist is tapped to be one of the heads of Operation Warp Speed, a White House initiative pushing to develop and distribute potential Covid-19 vaccines despite the fact that experts believe a vaccine is unlikely until next year.

Slaoui had been named on Wednesday, according to a senior administration official.

The ex-pharmaceutical head was the chair of the vaccines division at the British multinational company, and is now a partner at Medicxi Capital, a Philadelphia venture capital firm.

Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of Bio, the biotech industry organisation praised Slaoui, telling USA Today:

"Over his long career, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to public health, innovation and a public-private partnership that are vital to building the collaborations we need to bring new therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines to the American people.”

Slaoui has a Ph.D in microbiology and immunology from the Free University of Brussels (Université Libre de Bruxelle).

His appointment has not been confirmed by either the White House, nor Slaoui, who when pressed about his potential new role in the White House, told Politico he was the “same venture capitalist you talked to last week.”

What is ‘Operation Warp Speed’?

Donald Trump’s administration launched a coronavirus vaccine project, and scientists have identified 14 vaccines to focus on development, according to a senior administration official.

Those involved are expected to have six to eight vaccines tested make it to rounds of trials.

Operation Warp Speed will push production of the vaccine and will organise distribution and determine who gets the first dose of vaccine.

Trump has indicated that the goal – which many medical professionals believe to be unrealistic – is to make 100 million doses of the vaccine available by November 2020, 200 million doses by December, and 300 million doses by January.

"We are very confident we are going to have a vaccine by the end of the year," President Donald Trump said Sunday night at a Fox News town hall.

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