Moncef Mohamed Slaoui: ‘Coronavirus vaccine czar’ for USA

‘Coronavirus vaccine czar’ at rostrum next to President Trump

Moncef Mohamed Slaoui[1] (English: /ˈmɒnsɪf ˈslaʊ.i/French: [mɔ̃sɛf slawi]Moroccan Arabic: منصف السلاوي‎, IPA: [ˈmonsˤəf ˈsːlæwi]; born July 22, 1959) is a Moroccan-born BelgianAmerican researcher and former head of GlaxoSmithKline‘s vaccines department.[2] He worked at the company for thirty years, retiring in 2017. On May 15, 2020, President Donald Trump announced that Slaoui would manage the U.S. government’s development of a vaccine used to treat coronavirus disease in Operation Warp Speed.[3]


Early life and education

Slaoui was born on July 22, 1959, in AgadirMorocco.[4] His father worked in the irrigation business,[5] and died when Slaoui was a teenager, leaving his mother to raise him and his four siblings.[6]

Slaoui graduated from Mohammed V High School in Casablanca. In 1976, Slaoui left Morocco at age 17 to study medicine in France but missed the registration deadline due to new registration procedures and his mother being ill.[5] He enrolled at the Université libre de Bruxelles, where he received a BS in biology and then a MS. During this time he was very politically active.[5] In 1983, Slaoui earned a PhD in molecular biology and immunology from the Free University of Brussels.[7][8] His thesis was titled Etude de la diversité et de la sélection des répertoires idiotypiques dans le système immunitaire. Slaoui’s doctoral advisor was immunologist Jacques Urbain.[9]

Slaoui took postgraduate courses at Harvard Medical School and the Tufts University School of Medicine,[3] without earning degrees there.[10] In 1998, he received an accelerated MBA from the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in LausanneSwitzerland.[8]


After receiving his PhD, Slaoui moved to the United States with his girlfriend, who was doing post-doctoral research on influenza. She got a position at SmithKline-RIT (which would later become part of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK))[5] and Slaoui got a job teaching immunology at the University of Mons in Belgium.[11]

Slaoui co-authored more than 100 research papers.[12] In April 2013, he co-wrote a paper with several other GSK heads that introduced the term “electroceutical” to broadly encompass medical devices that use electrical, mechanical, or light stimulation to affect electrical signaling in relevant tissue types.[13] In July 2013, he wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post titled “It’s Time to Further Incentivize Medical Innovation”, in which he outlined three recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the pharmaceutical industry.[14]


Slaoui (far right) at a GSK event in December 2016

In 1988, after consulting for SmithKline-RIT for three years, Slaoui joined the company as a vaccine researcher.[6][7] In 2006, he was appointed head of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, succeeding Tachi Yamada.[15][16] In 2007, he announced plans to establish a neurosciences research group in Shanghai that would employ a thousand scientists and cost $100 million; it ceased operations in August 2017.[17] In 2008, Slaoui led the $720 million acquisition of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, which folded in 2013. In 2012, he oversaw GSK’s purchase of Human Genome Sciences for over $3 billion.[18] The Slaoui Center for Vaccines Research in RockvilleMaryland—named after Slaoui and GSK’s first research and development institute in the United States—was opened on December 14, 2016.[19][20][21]

Slaoui spent thirty years working at GSK.[3] During his time there, Slaoui oversaw the development of numerous vaccines, including Cervarix to prevent cervical cancer, Rotarix to prevent gastroenteritis in children, and an Ebola vaccine.[12] He also spent 27 years researching on a malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, that was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015 and touted as the first in the world.[22] In 2016, he discussed GSK’s development of bioelectronic medicine.[23][24]

Slaoui left GSK on June 30, 2017.[25] In September 2017, he joined European venture capital firm Medicxi.[26]

COVID-19 pandemic

Slaoui in the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2020

On May 15, 2020, President Donald Trump officially announced Operation Warp Speed, a project to develop and deliver 300 million doses of a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 by January 2021.[3] Slaoui was named to lead the project, working alongside chief operating officer and four-star general Gustave F. Perna.[27] Other candidates for Slaoui’s position reportedly included Elias Zerhouni and Arthur Levinson.[11][28] President Trump described Slaoui as “one of the most respected men in the world in the production and, really, on the formulation of vaccines”, while Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar praised him as “arguably the world’s most experienced and successful vaccine developer”.[29]

To avoid a conflict of interest, Slaoui resigned from the board of the Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna, which had been developing a vaccine for the coronavirus.[3][30] Slaoui faced criticism, particularly from Senator Elizabeth Warren, for continuing to have Moderna stock options worth over $10 million.[31][32] On May 18, 2020, Slaoui resigned from the board of manufacturing firm Lonza, which Moderna had partnered with to develop a coronavirus vaccine.[33] On May 19, after initially denying a conflict of interest, Slaoui divested his Moderna stock and donated the value it had gained from May 14 onwards to cancer research.[33][34][35]

On May 20, The New York Times reported that Slaoui had also resigned as an adviser to Brii Biosciences, a firm with sizeable Chinese investments, and would be resigning from Artizan Biosciences and Clazado. According to Michael Caputo, Slaoui’s decision to retain his GSK stock, even after being announced as Operation Warp Speed’s chief adviser, was cleared by the Department of Health and Human Services.[36]

Slaoui was scheduled to speak at the annual Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) conference on June 9, 2020, but ultimately pulled out, citing his failure to brief Congress beforehand.[37]

Slaoui said that the first Americans could receive a vaccine by December 11.[38]

Personal life

Slaoui is a Muslim[39][40] and is fluent in Arabic, English, and French.[12]

Slaoui has three sons.[5] Slaoui’s younger sister died at a young age from pertussis.[6][41] One of his two younger brothers, a pediatrician, Amine, died from pancreatic cancer.[5] His other brother, Mohamed, is a specialist in gastroenterology and his older sister, Hadia, is a university professor of French literature in Morocco.[5][6]



Gettysburg College awarded Slaoui an honorary Doctor of Science in May 2017.[55] In 2012, Slaoui was named as one of the “25 most influential people in biopharma today” by FierceBiotech.[56] In 2016, Fortune ranked him among “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”.[41] The Medicine Maker included Slaoui in its 2018 list of “World’s Top 100 Medicine Makers”.[57]

Selected works and publications


Scholia has an author profile for Moncef Slaoui.



  1. ^ US Expired 8597656B2, Cabezon, Teresa Silva; Slaoui, Moncef Mohamed & Cohen, Joseph et al., “Process for the production of immunogenic compositions”, published March 12, 2013, issued March 12, 2013, assigned to GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals SA
  2. ^ Mullard, Asher (July 1, 2015). “Moncef Slaoui”Nature Reviews Drug Discovery14(7): 452–453. doi:10.1038/NRD4669PMID 26129795Wikidata page Wikidata ()
  3. Jump up to:a b c d e Sanger, David E.; Haberman, Maggie; Weiland, Noah (May 15, 2020). “Trump Vows Vaccine by End of Year, and Mobilizes Military to Help”The New York Times.
  4. ^ Bouzdaini, Wissam El (May 14, 2020). “Moncef Slaoui chargé par le président américain de développer le vaccin contre le COVID-19”Maroc Hebdo (in French).
  5. Jump up to:a b c d e f g Chala, Siham; Slaoui, Moncref (April 24, 2020). “Rencontre Trait d’Union ON LINE – Moncef SLAOUI, Avril 2020”Groupe HEM (HEM Institut des Hautes Etudes de Management / HEM Business School) (in French).
  6. Jump up to:a b c d Sulla, Adama (May 17, 2020). “La face cachée du Marocain qui doit développer un vaccin contre la covid-19”Challenge (in French).
  7. Jump up to:a b Nazih, Ahlam (June 28, 2017). “Moncef Slaoui, l’as des vaccins”L’Économiste (in French).
  8. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k “Board of Directors: Dr Moncef Slaoui Independent member of the Board of Directors of Lonza Group Ltd (April 2020 until May 2020)”Lonza Group Ltd. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  9. ^ Slaoui, Moncef Mohamed (1983). Etude de la diversité et de la sélection des répertoires idiotypiques dans le système immunitaire (in French). Brussels: Université libre de Bruxelles, Faculté des sciences. identifier:
  10. ^ “Fierté Nationale: Moncef Slaoui à la tête du projet américain d’élaboration d’un vaccin anti-covid 19”L’Opinion. May 14, 2020.
  11. Jump up to:a b Hatim, Yahia (May 14, 2020). “Moncef Slaoui to Outstrip Algerian, US Experts in ‘Operation Warp Speed'”Morocco World News.
  12. Jump up to:a b c “Dr Moncef Slaoui: Is This The Man Who Can Save the World from Ebola?”International Business Times. August 12, 2015.
  13. ^ Famm, Kristoffer; Litt, Brian; Tracey, Kevin J.; Boyden, Edward S.; Slaoui, Moncef (April 10, 2013). “A jump-start for electroceuticals”Nature496 (7444): 159–161. doi:10.1038/496159APMC 4179459PMID 23579662Wikidata page Wikidata ()
  14. ^ Slaoui, Moncef (July 1, 2013). “It’s Time to Further Incentivize Medical Innovation”Huffington Post.
  15. ^ Gribben, Roland (February 7, 2006). “Saviour of Glaxo to step down”The Telegraph.
  16. Jump up to:a b Silverman, Ed (August 1, 2016). “Q&A: Glaxo exec says bioelectronics venture with Verily is ‘not science fiction'”STAT.
  17. ^ Carroll, John (August 3, 2017). “10 years and $100M-plus later, GSK shutters a China R&D site during a major pipeline overhaul”Endpoint News.
  18. ^ Cancryn, Adam; Diamond, Dan (May 14, 2020). “Meet the big pharma vet in charge of Trump’s vaccine strategy”Politico.
  19. ^ “Opening of the GSK Global Vaccines R&D Center in Rockville, MD”GlaxoSmithKline. December 15, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  20. ^ “Strengthening Rockville as a major player in global healthcare”GlaxoSmithKline. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  21. ^ “Dr Moncef Slaoui, sommité mondiale de la santé, en visite au Maroc”La Nouvelle Tribune (in French). May 9, 2017.
  22. ^ Lorenzetti, Laura (July 24, 2015). “World’s first malaria vaccine, from GlaxoSmithKline, wins approval from EU”Fortune.
  23. ^ Slaoui, Moncef (March 3, 2016). “Dr. Moncef Slaoui on Bioelectronics”GSK.
  24. ^ LaPook, Jonathan; Collins, Francis; Slaoui, Moncef; Tracey, Kevin (June 28, 2015). “Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health 2015: Biology and Electronics Come Together (Full Session)”Atlantic LIVE.
  25. ^ Cotaga, Olga (June 14, 2016). “GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines Unit Chairman to Retire Next Year”The Wall Street Journal.
  26. ^ Hirschler, Ben (September 19, 2017). “Former GSK CEO and ex-R&D boss move to biotech venture firms”Reuters.
  27. ^ Jacobs, Jennifer; Armstrong, Drew (May 14, 2020). “Trump Taps Ex-Glaxo Official and General to Lead Vaccine Race”Bloomberg News.
  28. ^ “White House names heads of ‘warp speed’ coronavirus vaccine effort”CNN. May 13, 2020.
  29. ^ “Remarks by President Trump on Vaccine Development” May 15, 2020. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  30. ^ Delaney, Robert (May 16, 2020). “Coronavirus: US vaccine tsar expresses optimism in ‘a few hundred million doses’ by end of the year”South China Morning Post.
  31. ^ Montgomery, Blake (May 15, 2020). “Trump’s Vaccine Czar Holds Millions in Stock Options at Company That Got Federal Funding for COVID-19 Work”Yahoo! News. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  32. ^ “Trump’s new coronavirus vaccine czar owns $10 million in stock options in company developing vaccine”Salon. May 18, 2020. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  33. Jump up to:a b Johnson, Carolyn Y. (May 20, 2020). “Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine shows encouraging early results”The Washington Post.
  34. ^ Perrett, Connor (May 18, 2020). “Trump’s newly appointed coronavirus czar Moncef Slaoui will divest his $10 million in stocks from the pharma company Moderna, after initially claiming there was no conflict of interest” Retrieved May 18,2020.
  35. ^ Perrett, Connor (May 18, 2020). “Trump’s newly appointed coronavirus czar Moncef Slaoui will divest his $10 million in stocks from the pharma company Moderna, after initially claiming there was no conflict of interest”Business Insider.
  36. Jump up to:a b c d “Trump’s Vaccine Chief Has Vast Ties to Drug Industry, Posing Possible Conflicts”The New York Times. May 20, 2020.
  37. ^ Dunn, Andrew (June 9, 2020). “Trump’s coronavirus vaccine czar just pulled out of a marquee biotech conference. It would have been his first public appearance since taking the ‘Operation Warp Speed’ job”Business Insider.
  38. ^ “Covid: First Americans ‘could get vaccine in early December'”BBC News. November 22, 2020. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  39. ^ “Trump selects Muslim American to find Covid-19 vaccine”Dawn. May 17, 2020.
  40. ^ “Despite anti-immigrant stance, Trump taps Moroccan migrant for vaccine role”TRT World. May 19, 2020.
  41. Jump up to:a b “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders: 29: Moncef Slaoui”Fortune. 2016.
  42. ^ “GSK Global Vaccines Chairman Moncef Slaoui joins IAVI Board of Directors”. International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. January 12, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  43. ^ Stendahl, Max (August 9, 2017). “Former GSK exec resigns from Intellia board due to ‘conflict'”Boston Business Journal.
  44. ^ “Moncef M.Slaoui, Ph.D. Joins Moderna’s Board of Directors” (PDF). Moderna, Inc. July 27, 2017.
  45. Jump up to:a b “MRNA Company Profile & Executives – Moderna Inc”The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  46. ^ “Moncef Slaoui”The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  47. ^ “Moncef Slaoui PhD”. Divide & Conquer. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  48. ^ “The Human Vaccines Project Welcomes Moncef Slaoui to its Board of Directors”. Human Vaccines Project. March 22, 2018. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  49. ^ “Board: Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D.” Artizan Biosciences, Inc. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  50. ^ “Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D., Scientific and Strategic Advisor”Brii Biosciences. Archived from the original on May 17, 2020. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  51. ^ “CEO Appointed at Clasado Biosciences”. Clasado Biosciences. Retrieved May 19,2020.
  52. ^ “Health & Regulatory Affairs Committee”BIO. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  53. ^ “HBKU board member is head of US vaccine development project”Gulf Times. May 17, 2020.
  54. ^ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Nicholson, Anna; Brown, Lisa; Snair, Justin (2018). Examining Challenges and Possible Strategies to Strengthen U.S. Health Security: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. p. vii. doi:10.17226/24856ISBN 978-0-309-46375-1.
  55. ^ “182nd Commencement”Gettysburg College. May 21, 2017. Retrieved May 19,2020.
  56. ^ Hollmer, Mark (February 7, 2012). “Moncef Slaoui – The 25 most influential people in biopharma today”. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  57. ^ “The Power List 2018 – Industry Influencers: Moncef Slaoui, Partner, Medicxi”The Medicine Maker. 2018.

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Moncef Slaoui.

Categories: Muslim Heritage, Vaccine

3 replies

  1. PHILADELPHIA – In 2009, a flu pandemic was racing across the world when a venture capital firm that backs health care companies held its annual retreat. The meeting was a who’s who of pharmaceutical and biotechnology executives – the top leaders of the top companies in the world.

    One man pulled together a group of his peers and issued a directive: “We are going to work together to make something happen here.”

    That scene came to mind when the Trump administration asked Jeremy Levin, head of the industry’s Biotechnology Innovation Organization, who should run America’s COVID-19 vaccine development effort.

    “Moncef Slaoui,” he answered without hesitation.

    Slaoui, 61, a Moroccan-born retired vaccine developer and drug company executive, brought his colleagues together before, so it seemed logical to tap him again.

    Slaoui’s name came up repeatedly in the spring, when Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was looking for someone from the private sector to help lead Operation Warp Speed – an unprecedented and audacious effort to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end.

    The scientific community was among the skeptical. The fastest vaccine development on record was for the mumps, and it took four years. There was no way to make a safe, effective vaccine in seven months, many said. Something would have to be compromised.

    Slaoui thought he could pull it off.

    In many ways, he’d been preparing for the challenge his entire life.

    A political activist in his youth, he spent nearly 30 years at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, 27 of them working on a vaccine for malaria. He brought 14 vaccines to market and rose to head research and development for the entire company.

    “Vaccines have always been my first love. That’s what I like the most,” he said in an interview with USA TODAY.

  2. CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. are preparing to administer Covid-19 vaccines in tens of thousands of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the country, with shots possibly rolling out in just weeks.

    Federal advisers on Tuesday urged that residents at long-term care centers be first in line for the Covid shots, along with at-risk health-care workers. In making the recommendation, the advisers said the move would be well-supported by a new partnership formed between the Department of Health and Human Services and pharmacy companies to vaccinate at the centers.

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