- Dr Moncef Slaoui, a former pharma executive, was announced last week as a lead figure in President Donald Trump’s push for a coronavirus vaccine.
- Slaoui resigned as a director of the company Moderna – which is trialing one vaccine – to take the position.
- However, he continues to hold stock options worth more than $US10 million in Moderna, which has seen its stock price skyrocket in recent months.
- Moderna’s stock climb was helped by an investment from the federal government, of which Slaoui is now a part.
- The holding has been called a potential conflict of interest, as Moderna’s vaccine could be a beneficiary of the program Saloui is leading.
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The former pharma executive tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the federal government’s hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine has more than $US10 million in stock options in one of the companies receiving federal funding.
Dr Moncef Slaoui, a Belgian-American, was this week named Chief Scientist for Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to develop a working vaccine as fast as possible.
Slaoui addressed the media in a press conference on Friday in the White House Rose Garden, where Trump described him as one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on vaccines. He worked for years at GlaxoSmithKline, rising to the position of Head of Research and Development before leaving in 2017.
NEW: Pres. Trump appoints former pharmaceutical executive Moncef Slaoui and Army Gen. Gustave Perna to lead vaccine development.
— ABC News (@ABC) May 15, 2020
In order to take up the position, Slaoui resigned his role on the board of directors for Moderna Inc., a biotech company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to the Associated Press, Slaoui’s White House role is unpaid.
However, filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission show that Slaoui continues to hold valuable stock options in Moderna.
Described across four separate filings, Slaoui has 155,438 options in Moderna. The stake is worth $US10,366,000 at Moderna’s current share price, $US66.69 at the time of publication.
Moderna shares have almost tripled in value during 2020. The $US66.69 figure represents an increase of 184% from the $US23.46 it was trading for on January 1.
Part of this sharp increase was fuelled by an injection of more than $US400 million from the federal government to assist trials of a coronavirus vaccine.
According to CNBC, Moderna, on April 17, announced $US483 million of funding from a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The healthcare website Stat News described Slaoui’s holding as “a potential conflict of interest” if it works and receives the massive acceleration promised by Trump’s “Warp Speed” plan.
In his Rose Garden appearance, Slaoui mentioned data from a particular clinical trial, which he said suggested a vaccine could be successful.
Addressing Trump, he 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.”
While Slaoui did not name the trial in question, Stat News said he was “likely referencing” the Moderna trial, which is in a position to provide that data.
After news of Slaoui’s holding was published, former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that Slaoui “must divest immediately.”
It is a huge conflict of interest for the White House’s new vaccine czar to own $10 million of stock in a company receiving government funding to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Slaoui should divest immediately. https://t.co/8IWLxVL7la
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) May 15, 2020
Business Insider has contacted Moderna and the White House for comment.
The Daily Beast said it attempted to contact Slaoui, but was unable to reach him.
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