US President Donald Trump has picked a Muslim doctor to lead the quest to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus by the end of 2020.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a Belgian-American, was this week named Chief Scientist for Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to develop a COVID-19 working vaccine as fast as possible.
In a press conference on Friday in the White House Rose Garden, Trump described Slaoui as one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on vaccines.
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Addressing Trump, Slaoui said, “Mr. President, I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine. And this data made me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020.”
The “Warp Speed” group will incorporate expertise from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense and more, FDA chief Stephen Hahn said at a Senate hearing this week.
Who Is Slaoui
Born 1959, Slaoui is a Moroccan-born Belgian-American researcher and former head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines department. He worked at the company for thirty years, retiring in 2017.
After graduating from Mohammed V High School, he left Morocco at the age of 17 to study medicine in France. However, he missed the registration deadline.
He enrolled at Université libre de Bruxelles, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology. Then he got a doctorate in molecular microbiology and immunology. He took postgraduate courses at Harvard Medical School and the Tufts University School of Medicine
Picked to lead operation Wrap Speed, Slaoui resigned from the board of the Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna. The firm had been developing a vaccine for the coronavirus
Slaoui also sits on the boards of SutroVax, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and the PhRMA Foundation.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar praised Slaoui as “arguably the world’s most experienced and successful vaccine developer.”