Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has slammed COVID-19 vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui’s “huge conflict of interest” after required federal 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.”
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 155,000 Moderna stock options, according to Security and Exchange Commission filings, worth more than $10 million as of Friday, reported Business Insider.
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 said the president’s aim to have a vaccine by the end of the year was “credible,” though it would be “extremely challenging.”
Slaoui said he was “more confident” after seeing “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’s experimental coronavirus vaccine just entered Phase 2 of clinical trials, The New York Times reported.
Slaoui could not immediately be reach for comment by HuffPost.