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Arab-American scientist leading US coronavirus vaccine programme

Web Report/Washington
Filed on May 18, 2020
trump, coronavirus, covid19, Moncef Slaoui, vaccine, muslim scientist

(Reuters file)

'Operation Warp Speed's' chief scientist is a world-renowned immunologist who helped create 14 new vaccines

An Arab-American scientist, Moncef Slaoui, will head Donald Trump's Covid-19 vaccine programme 'Operation Warp Speed' which has been unveiled to create an antidote by the end of the year.

Morocco-born Slaoui, a former professor of immunology at the University of Mons, Belgium, is the operation's chief scientist. Trump described Slaoui as "one of the most respected men in the world in the production and, really, on the formulation of vaccines".

The US President said, "We're proud to announce the addition of two of the most highly respected and skilled professionals in our country - worldwide respected."

He added, "Operation Warp Speed's chief scientist will be Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a world-renowned immunologist who helped create 14 new vaccines - that's a lot of our new vaccines - in 10 years, during his time in the private sector."

According to a report in Arab News, Trump said Slaoui will be assisted by a team that includes veteran army four-star Gen. Gus Perna as chief operating officer.

Trump has compared the high speed vaccine program to the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb in the 1940s.

Slaoui has published over 100 scientific papers on the topic, and is a member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative's board of directors. "I've very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine," said Slaoui.

"This data made me feel even more confident that we'll be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020," added Slaoui, who headed the global vaccines development program at GlaxoSmithKline from 2015 to 2017.

Trump said Operation Warp Speed's primary mission will be to finish developing, and then manufacture and distribute, a proven coronavirus vaccine "as fast as possible".

Calling it "a great honor" to "serve our country and the world" in combating the pandemic, Slaoui said, 

"The president has described them. And I believe they're very credible. I also believe they're extremely challenging. However, I'm really confident that . we'll be able, and we'll do the utmost, to deliver these objectives."


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