According to White House officials cited in several reports Wednesday, President Donald Trump is expected to appoint Moncef Slaoui, the former chairman of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines division, as chief adviser of Operation Warp Speed, an initiative aimed at speeding up the search for a coronavirus vaccine. Slaoui retired from his role at GlaxoSmithKline in 2017.
Meanwhile, officials at the White House said Army General Gustave Perna has also been tapped to serve as chief operating officer overseeing logistics for Operation Warp Speed. The “Manhattan Project” style initiative is expected to bring together private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military to try to cut the development time for a vaccine by as much as eight months, according to two people familiar with the matter. The US administration has set a target of having 300 million vaccine doses for COVID-19 by the end of this year.
Several candidates have been rumored to be considered for the vaccine chief position aside from Slaoui, one official said, including Elias Zerhouni, who led the US National Institutes of Health under President George W. Bush, as well as Art Levinson, the CEO of Calico.
Slaoui has since 2017 been a board member of Moderna, whose mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2 was recently fast-tracked by the FDA, with plans for Phase II testing underway, while a late-stage study could begin in early summer. He also recently joined the board of Lonza, which has contracted with Moderna to manufacture its vaccine.