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Moderna says White House coronavirus vaccine chief is divesting

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More than 130 labs around the world are working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. But what would it take to vaccinate everyone by early next year?

The former pharmaceutical executive leading the White House’s coronavirus vaccine effort is divesting from vaccine developer Moderna Inc., the biotech company said Monday after early-stage test results sent its stock soaring.

Moncef Slaoui resigned from Moderna’s board of directors when the Trump administration tapped him last week to be chief advisor for its Operation Warp Speed, a push to develop and distribute a vaccine to address the COVID-19 pandemic. But he still had stock options for about 156,000 Moderna shares; based on Friday’s closing price, they were worth about $10 million.

Moderna is among the companies developing a potential vaccine for the virus, and in April the federal government agreed to award it up to $483 million to speed up that process.

As Slaoui’s new White House role involves weighing in on which companies’ efforts should receive federal backing, concern about conflicts of interest arose. Patient advocacy groups and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called last week for Slaoui to untangle his finances from the company’s fortunes.

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Then Moderna announced promising results from an early-stage trial of its vaccine. Its shares soared 20% on Monday.

The stock market is euphoric over news of a possible coronavirus vaccine. But for now, you shouldn’t be.

Moderna told the Los Angeles Times midday that Slaoui “is divesting all of his equity interest” in the company so there would be no conflict of interest. It did not respond to a follow-up question asking about the timeline of the divestment.

Slaoui did not respond to a request for comment sent via LinkedIn.

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According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that Slaoui’s divestment would take effect Tuesday morning and that he would donate to cancer research the value his options gained since before his White House role was announced.

Slaoui had been a member of Moderna’s board since 2017. Previously he led the vaccines division at GlaxoSmithKline.


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