White House adds former pharma exec, four-star general to speed vaccine development

The White House is bringing on a former pharmaceutical executive and a four-star general to help lead an effort to speed development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Moncef Slaoui, who headed up GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s vaccines division, will serve as the chief adviser for an initiative dubbed “Operation Warp Speed” that is aiming to get a vaccine to the public by as early as January, according to a White House official. Four-star general Gustave Perna will work as the chief operating officer, the official said.

The additions come amid public claims by Dr. Rick Bright — who until last month was responsible for overseeing vaccine development as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — that he was shoved out of his job for pushing back against what he called "efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections." Bright is scheduled to testify about his experience Thursday during a House hearing.

The project is aiming to produce a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year, bringing together drug companies, government agencies and the military to speed up vaccine development, which can typically take years.