Muslim American heads Trump’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ to develop coronavirus vaccine

Washington: US President Donald Trump has named Moroccan-born Muslim American Moncef Mohamed Slaoui, to head a fast-track COVID-19 vaccine programme called Operation Warp Speed. Announcing the appointment the president described Slaoui as “one of the most respected men in the world in the production” and “on the formulation of vaccines.”

“Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientist will be Dr Moncef Slaoui, a world-renowned immunologist who helped create 14 new vaccines,” President Trump announced at a White House news briefing on Friday afternoon. “That’s a lot of our new vaccines — in 10 years, during his time in the private sector,” he added.

Trump described the operation as a “momentous medical initiative,” and a “massive scientific, industrial and logistical endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project.”

Dr Slaoui, 60, was born in Agadir, Morocco. He headed GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines department and worked 30 years for the company. He has published more than 100 scientific papers and is a member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative’s board of directors.

After graduating from Mohammed V High School in Casablanca, Dr Slaoui studied biological sciences in Belgium and also took postgraduate courses at Harvard Medical School and the Tufts University School of Medicine.

“I’ve very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine,” said Dr Slaoui while introducing the programme at the White House briefing. “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.”

U.S. Army General Gustave Perna, who currently oversees 190,000 service members, civilians and contractors as commander of the US Army Materiel Command, will head the operation’s logistics.

Talking about the collaboration across the federal government, Trump said, “This historic partnership will now bring together the full resources of the Department of Health and Human Services with the Department of Defense. And we know what that means. That means the full power and strength of the military.”

During World War II the US-led Manhattan Project brought together the world’s leading industrial and scientific leaders to create the first atomic bombs, which were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, forcing Japan to surrender.