"Operation Warp Speed," the Trump administration's latest push to accelerate the development of a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, has a new leader: Moncef Slaoui, the former head of pharmaceutical research and development at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK 1.52%).
Previously, Elias Zerhouni, a former Sanofi (SNY 2.37%) executive, had been expected to take the lead role. However, international outrage over recent comments from Sanofi's current CEO regarding that company's distribution plans for its own experimental SARS-CoV-2 vaccine -- should it prove effective -- probably figured into the administration's sudden change of plans.
Slaoui will serve in a volunteer capacity with assistance from Gen. Gustave Perna, the current head of U.S. Army Materiel Command.
A group effort
GlaxoSmithKline was a leading vaccine developer during Slaoui's tenure, which ended in 2017, and he hasn't left the field. He currently serves on the board of directors at Moderna (MRNA 3.87%), which is developing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate based on messenger RNA (mRNA).
Moderna's isn't the only mRNA vaccine under development that Operation Warp Speed aims to accelerate. Earlier this month, BioNTech (BNTX 0.65%) and its collaboration partner Pfizer (PFE 0.72%) began dosing patients with BNT162, which is actually four related mRNA vaccines bundled into one clinical development program -- the companies will soon select the best version to test in a larger population.
In addition to this pair of mRNA-based candidates, Operation Warp Speed will aim to assist with the development of coronavirus vaccine candidates from Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, just to name a few.