The man behind the Covid-19 Vaccine Acceleration Campaign

AmericaAs a scientific advisor to Operation Express, Moncef Slaoui had to relinquish leadership positions in companies to avoid conflicts of interest.

Moncef Slaoui is the name first thought of by Jeremy Levin, president of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization for leading the Covid-19 vaccine development race in the US.

The 61-year-old Slaoui, born in Morocco, is the strategic operator of a retired vaccine and pharmaceutical development company. He has experience in research to produce vaccines for pandemic flu in 2009, famously saying: “We must work together to make dreams come true”.

There is no question that he is considered a bright candidate for the leadership position of Operation Warp Speed ​​- Operation Speed, a “bold effort never before” by the US government to promote research. rescue and supply Covid-19 vaccine by the end of this year.

Scientists question the program’s possibilities because the fastest-growing vaccine in the past also took four years (the mumps vaccine). How can we make a vaccine that is safe and effective in just 7 months? Must have something in exchange reasonable?

Slaoui seemed to be born for such challenges. He spent 30 years with the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, 27 years with the malaria (malaria) vaccine and has marketed 14 other vaccines. He became a leader in vaccine research and development in the company. Vaccine has always been of primary concern to him.

Moncef Slaoui. Image:

Slaoui said he agreed to work as the chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed ​​on two terms: he didn’t want politics to get in his way and he didn’t want bureaucratic rules to slow development. . “We have to let science, not politics, guide us,” he said.

Six months four days after he joined the campaign, the company Pfizer in cooperation with BioNtech of Germany announced the vaccine was successfully tested with 95% effectiveness and submitted to the FDA Food and Drug Administration for approval. in the community.

Slaoui predicts from the beginning of the summer that the vaccine for Covid-19 will be 80-90% effective. nCoV is a weakly virulent virus, so 8 out of 10 people infected with the virus will get over with mild symptoms or no symptoms.

The results were really dreamlike when the vaccines of Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna were over 94% effective. “We can get the pandemic under control,” said Slaoui, “if everyone is persuaded to be fully vaccinated.” He is concerned that many people will not be vaccinated.

Slaoui went to Temple University Hospital to encourage people to participate in Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trial. He knows that when a trial involves multiple races, the vaccine will gain a lot of support when it goes on the market.

As the leader of the vaccine development program, Slaoui regularly goes to the branches to get practical. He has visited at least 5 clinical trial sites and dozens of manufacturing facilities. He and the team of the organization Speed ​​Campaigns meet each day to update information on candidate vaccine and Covid-19 treatment drugs.

Currently, his work has been largely completed. He is thinking of resigning. The main problem now is how to bring the Covid-19 vaccine safely to millions of Americans.

Moncef Slaoui, in a leather jacket, toured Temple University Hospital on November 20.  Photo: USA Today.

Moncef Slaoui, in a leather jacket, toured Temple University Hospital on November 20. Image: USA Today.

Slaoui has been criticized for being a successful businessman taking a position in government. In fact he attaches great importance to professional ethics. When leading the Super Campaign, he had to relinquish his leadership position at Moderna and elsewhere in order to avoid a conflict of interest. He had to sell all the shares from the startups he had, thus missed out on huge returns from the market growth over the past seven months. The work from the Operation Speed ​​program changed Slaoui’s life overnight.

The working partnership with the Department of Defense makes it possible for companies in the Express Campaign to get the required supply a priority. When a train carrying pumps critical to Moderna’s vaccine research into the final test phase got stuck on rails, the military quickly mobilized planes to assist with the transport.

“Priorities like this have helped companies run things faster than usual,” says Slaoui. “We follow Moderna every day.”

Moderna’s trial recruited many volunteers, but not many of the participants were of color – ethnicity was particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Slaoui understood that if the trials were not diverse enough, people of color would doubt the results and feel unsafe when vaccinated.

Slaoui has known Moderna’s team all too well since he was on the company’s board of directors. He was also upset that the company’s scientists didn’t listen to the importance of ethnic diversity in an experiment.

“We often end up with an atmosphere of tension in mutual respect,” he said.

He persuaded companies to slow down the inclusion of whites. On the other hand, he advised leaders of the National Institutes of Health – NIH (Dr. Francis Collins), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Dr. Anthony Fauci) to increase the inclusion of African and Latin American populations. Get into the test quickly.

When leading such a large-scale and visionary program, he said, he had to make decisions and choices in seconds, Slaoui said. “That’s where insight and insight are needed,” he said. “If not, you will make the wrong choice”.

One thing that Slaoui could not control was the attitude of the community.

This explains why he went to Temple University Hospital where the November 20 vaccine test was conducted and the Emory University Hospital the week before. All are intended to feel the challenges of recruiting volunteers for the trial and encourage more participants to participate.

“Thank you for dedicating your body to science,” Slaoui told Carlaann Henry, a volunteer for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trial at Temple, as she was waiting to see the following reactions. when vaccinated or not.

“It is my honor and my responsibility,” replied Carlaann Henry, “I am delighted that this trial is underway in Temple, Philadelphia.”

After working with colleagues in the hospital, Slaoui went out and called on more Philadelphia residents to join the study.

“When we participate in the pilot study, we have shown the responsibility of citizenship to help society, help the country and help the world understand the effectiveness of vaccines,” he said. “And this is the only way we can return to normal life on the nearest date.”

Earlier, on the same day that Pfizer filed the FDA application for urgent licensing of the company’s vaccine, Slaoui emphasized the rapid development of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“It’s one of the miracles about America,” said Slaoui. “If you have faith and give yourself the chance to do it, then you can do it. It’s great.”

The unborn (According to the USA Today)


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