The chief of Operation Warp Velocity is stepping down on the request of the Biden staff and can survive the transition, sources say
Operation Warp Speed’s chief advisor, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, has submitted his resignation at the request of the incoming Biden team as part of a plan that, according to a person familiar with the situation, he would stay in the role for a month to help with the transition.
Slaoui’s role as the lead vaccine developer for the government’s unprecedented efforts is expected to wane after Jan. 20, said people who refused to be named because the plan is not yet public. It would end on February 12th.
It is not clear who will then take over the scientific leadership of the Biden team, which focuses on Covid vaccines, or if anyone will be appointed to that role. Two vaccines have already been approved in the US and three more are in late-stage clinical trials. Jeff Zients is Biden’s Covid-19 Response Coordinator while Bechara Choucair will be the Covid-19 Vaccination Coordinator, focused on accelerating vaccine delivery.
Slaoui’s current contract provides for a 30-day notice period prior to termination, and the Biden team has not asked Slaoui to stay beyond that, one respondent said.
Former GlaxoSmithKline pharma executive Moncef Slaoui, who will serve as the chief advisor in the search for a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, speaks while President Donald Trump during a coronavirus response event Illness in the rose garden at the White Hearts House in Washington.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
Slaoui previously said he was planning to step down after two vaccines and two therapies for Covid-19 hit the market, which came with the release of Moderna’s vaccine last month. Last week he said he “decided to extend this to ensure the operation continues to work as it was done during the transition of administration.” However, he noted that “we are nearing the point where my added value is less”.
Although the initial launch of vaccines was criticized, the speed of their development, which Slaoui oversaw, exceeded expectations: in the US, two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were approved for disease prevention with 95% effectiveness. The pivotal Johnson & Johnson results for their vaccine, the first to offer single-dose potential, are expected within weeks. It was the fastest vaccine development in history.
Slaoui was criticized for accepting the job because of his links to the pharmaceutical industry; Around the same time his role was announced, he stepped down from Moderna’s board of directors. He sold his shares in the company and said he donated their appreciation in the few days he kept them at the helm of Operation Warp Speed.
However, he declined to sell his stake in GlaxoSmithKline, where he oversaw vaccine development for 30 years and called the stock his retirement.
He was particularly criticized by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who replied in a video message in September that he was a registered Democrat but “did not hesitate” to take on the role “because this pandemic is bigger than any of us.”
Slaoui received $ 1,000 for his work overseeing Operation Warp Speed to donate to scientific research.