A top executive at one of America’s largest healthcare companies is leaving for the rest of the year to go help the WHO develop a coronavirus vaccine

Optum CEO Andrew Witty. Reuters
  • Andrew Witty, the president of health giant UnitedHealth Group and CEO of its Optum unit, is taking a leave of absence to lead the World Health Organisation’s efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine, UnitedHealth said on Wednesday.
  • Prior to running Optum, Witty was CEO of pharma company GlaxoSmithKline, which has a major vaccines business.
  • Witty’s expected to return to the company by the end of 2020.
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Andrew Witty, a top executive at UnitedHealth Group, is taking a leave of absence to work on a coronavirus vaccine.

Witty, who serves as the president of UnitedHealth and as CEO of the company’s Optum business arm, will be co-leading the World Health Organisation’s efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, UnitedHealth said on Wednesday morning.

“I am deeply honoured to help lead this mission to seek a COVID-19 vaccine,” Witty said in a news release on Wednesday.

Prior to joining UnitedHealth in 2018, Witty was CEO of vaccine-maker GlaxoSmithKline. GSK on Tuesday announced that it’s working with French pharma giant Sanofi to develop their own coronavirus vaccine.

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Witty starts his role with the WHO on April 20, leaving UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann in charge of the Optum business unit. Witty’s expected to return by the end of the year.

The $US258 billion healthcare giant owns the largest health insurer in the US, and over the past few years has had big plans to make going to the doctor its next $US100 billion business. That doctor business is part of the Optum arm of UnitedHealth.