Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has slammed COVID-19 vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui’s “huge conflict of interest” after Securities and Exchange Commission filings revealed he holds $10 million in stock options in one of the companies working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
Warren demanded that Slaoui “divest immediately.”
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. https://t.co/8IWLxVL7la
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) May 15, 2020
Former pharmaceutical company executive Slaoui stepped down from his position on the board of directors of biotech company Moderna Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But he is still holding some 156,000 stock options worth more than $10 million as of Friday, according to filings with the SEC.
Slaoui’s economic interest in the company could influence government support for Moderna over other companies that may be more successful in their hunt for a vaccine.
Moderna last month also announced it received $483 million in federal funding for vaccine development, which sent its stocks up 15%, CNBC reported.
Slaoui was named “chief scientist” this week for President Donald Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible. Before taking the spot on Moderna’s board, Slaoui worked for years at GlaxoSmithKline, eventually becoming head of research and development. He left in 2017.
When he was introduced earlier this week by Trump in a Rose Garden press briefing, Slaoui was optimisitic a vaccine could be developed by the end of the year, though it would be challenging.
He noted that he had seen positive “early data from a clinical trial.” He did not name which company was conducting the trial. But health publication Stat News reported that it was probably Moderna, the company Slaoui stands to profit from, because he likely had access to that information. Moderna is the first company in the U.S. to enter into a Phase 1 clinical trial, according to Stat.
Slaoui could not immediately be reach for comment by HuffPost.
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