Politico.com By Adam Cancryn and Dan Diamond Thurs., May 14, 2020
Moncef Slaoui, the former GlaxoSmithKline R&D chief, is being tapped by the administration as Trump’s de facto “therapeutics czar,” POLITICO and other outlets reported on Wednesday. In the role, Slaoui will oversee work to rush Covid-19 vaccines to market as part of the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” in a joint HHS-Department of Defense operation.
Slaoui interviewed with White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, senior adviser Jared Kushner, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and others last week, three people with knowledge told POLITICO. But Slaoui had repeatedly denied his interest in the role to POLITICO, saying on Monday that the persistent questions were “inappropriate” and not relevant.
“I’m the same venture capitalist you talked to last week,” he said.
Slaoui had a long career at GSK, where he spent eight years overseeing vaccine work. “Vaccines is an attractive business,” he told investors in a 2015 presentation before leaving the company’s board in 2017.
— But Slaoui oversaw multiple troubled deals at GSK. Slaoui steered the company’s $720 million purchase of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals in 2008, which was shuttered amid questions five years later; sold off GSK’s entire oncology business, which Novartis turned into a “cancer heavyweight”; and directed GSK’s $3 billion acquisition of Human Genome in 2012, which hasn’t led to much of a return.
Those are “three of the worst deals in drug industry history,” one pharma industry veteran told PULSE.
— And advocates are warning he has “blatant financial conflicts of interest,” given that he sits on the boards of multiple vaccine developers. “Slaoui needs to prove that he is not — in his words — the same pharma venture capitalist he was last week,” Public Citizen said in a statement.