The former pharmaceutical executive tapped by President Trump to lead the federal effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine owns stock options worth more than $10 million in a company receiving funding from that same program, Stat News reports. Until his appointment, Dr. Moncef Slaoui was on the board of the company, Moderna, one of the leading companies in the race for a vaccine and the first to enter a vaccine into clinical trials.
Slaoui’s ownership of 156,000 Moderna stock options, disclosed in required federal financial filings, sparked concerns about a conflict of interest. Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren called Slaoui out over the matter on Twitter: “It is a huge conflict of interest for the White House’s new vaccine czar to own $10 million of stock in a company receiving government funding to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Slaoui should divest immediately.”
The company’s shares skyrocketed last month after news broke of the $483 million in federal funding to work on a coronavirus vaccine.
Slaoui could not immediately be reached for comment on the matter.
The former GlaxoSmithKline executive echoed Trump’s rosy projections about the timeline for a vaccine while speaking alongside the president in the Rose Garden on Friday to unveil “Operation Warp Speed,” the White House’s plan to research and manufacture hundreds of millions of doses of a new COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020.
“Mr. President, I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine,” he said to applause. “These data make me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar offered a different timeframe a short time later, estimating that the vaccine would be ready by January 2021.