Trump selects Muslim scientist to lead COVID-19 vaccine plan

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has named a Moroccan-born Muslim American, Moncef Mohamed Slaoui as the chief scientist to lead a COVID-19 vaccine program called “Operation Warp Speed.”

Announcing the appointment at a White House news briefing on Friday afternoon, president Trump described Slaoui as “one of the most respected men in the world in the production and, really, on the formulation of vaccines.”

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.”

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Slaoui will take no salary

According to a report in Arab News, Dr. Moncef Slaoui will be assisted by a team that includes Army General Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command to develop a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus as soon as possible.

The Associated Press has reported that Slaoui will take no salary for his work on Operation Warp Speed.

Who is Dr Slaoui?

Born in 1959 in Agadir, Morocco, Dr Slaoui leave the country of his birth at the age of 17.

After graduating, he earned a doctorate in molecular biology and immunology from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

He completed post-doctoral studies at Harvard Medical School as well as Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston.

He headed GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s vaccines department and worked for 30 years.

He is listed as an author of more than 100 Scientific papers on immunology. 

In a world first, he won European approval for a malaria vaccine in 2015.

Slaoui, who was on the board of the biotech company Moderna resigned last week, when President Trump appointed him to head Operation Warp Speed.

“Great honor” to “serve”

“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.

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.”

It is a little ironic that President Trump, who has previously blamed Muslims for increased crime rates choosing a Muslim for such a programme.

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