On Wednesday, The New York Times published an analysis of the extensive industry ties — and potential conflicts of interest — of President Donald Trump’s new top vaccine official.
“The scientist, Moncef Slaoui, is a venture capitalist and a former longtime executive at GlaxoSmithKline,” reported Sheila Kaplan, Matthew Goldstein, and Alexandra Stevenson. “Most recently, he sat on the board of Moderna, a Cambridge, Mass., biotechnology firm with a $30 billion valuation that is pursuing a coronavirus vaccine. He resigned when President Trump named him last Thursday to the new post as chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, the federal drive for coronavirus vaccines and treatments.”
“Just days into his job, the extent of Dr. Slaoui’s financial interests in drug companies has begun to emerge: The value of his stock holdings in Moderna jumped nearly $2.4 million, to $12.4 million when the company released preliminary, partial data from an early phase of its candidate vaccine trial that helped send the markets soaring on Monday,” continued the report.
Slaoui sold his shares in Moderna as he was being brought on board, and the Trump administration maintains that they have vetted him thoroughly for conflicts of interest. However, the manner in which he was appointed has made the whole process less transparent.
“In agreeing to accept the position, Dr. Slaoui did not come on board as a government employee. Instead, he is on a contract, receiving $1 for his service,” said the report. “That leaves him exempt from federal disclosure rules that would require him to list his outside positions, stock holdings and other potential conflicts. And the contract position is not subject to the same conflict-of-interest laws and regulations that executive branch employees must follow.”
“In an interview, Dr. Slaoui said he was determined to avoid conflicts and would re-evaluate any remaining associations if his financial interests stood to gain more from his new post overseeing the government’s push to encourage speedy development of treatments or vaccines. “He did not say how much his GSK shares were worth. When he left the company in 2017, he held about 240,000 shares and share equivalents, according to the drug company’s annual report and an analysis by the executive compensation firm Equilar.”
He has also said he told the administration he does not wish to divest from GSK, but has promised to donate any capital gains he makes off of the GSK shares during his time in the government role.
“The new group of which Dr. Slaoui is lead scientist will vet candidates for vaccines and treatments, to decide whether they should receive federal financial backing and additional support,” said the report.
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