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Trump to name former drug executive, Army general to lead vaccine search

Pair to lead Operation Warp Speed, the quest for a vaccine to stop COVID-19

Health care workers place a COVID-19 test into a cooler at a drive-thru testing facility at George Washington University.
Health care workers place a COVID-19 test into a cooler at a drive-thru testing facility at George Washington University. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump is planning to name former GlaxoSmithKline vaccine chief Moncef Slaoui and Army Materiel Command Gen. Gustave Perna to lead the search for a coronavirus vaccine, an administration spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

The two will head a project dubbed Operation Warp Speed to find and fast-track a vaccine for COVID-19 as the nation struggles to balance concerns of an economic free fall with the lingering presence of a deadly and highly transmissible virus. Many health experts including National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci expect that a vaccine is at least a year away.

Perna is a decorated four-star general who directs logistics and global supply chain for the U.S. Army.

Slaoui serves on the board of Moderna Therapeutics, one of several companies leading the charge for a vaccine. Moderna began a phase two clinical trial for its vaccine candidate earlier this month, and plans to move to phase three trials early this summer.

While at GlaxoSmithKline, Slaoui led the development of cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix and pneumococcal vaccine Synflorix.

He joined venture capital firm Medicxi as a partner in September 2017 after stepping down from GlaxoSmithKline, and also sits on the board of companies like vaccine maker SutroVax and the nonprofit artificial intelligence initiative Human Vaccines Project.

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