Doctor testing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine says it’s ‘mind-boggling’ that it may be ready this year

Emory University medicine professor Dr. Carlos del Rio told CNBC on Friday, “I am cautiously optimistic” that a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution by the end of this year.

COVID-19 vaccine. Image: Closeup of COVID-19 coronavirusHis comments echo that of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the American immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984 and currently serves as one of the lead members of the Trump Administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force. Fauci said earlier that day that the vaccine development timeline is still “intact.”

Tyler Clifford for CNBC:

“I am cautiously optimistic,” del Rio said on “Power Lunch,” echoing comments earlier that day from immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci. “We are developing at a pace that has never been done before.”

Atlanta’s Emory University is one site testing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Moderna, which in March initiated the first U.S. clinical trial for a solution. Fauci, a leading health advisor on the White House’s coronavirus response team, in a Friday morning interview on NPR said his projected timetable to develop a vaccine — a 12- to 18-month process — remains “intact” and that it’s “conceivable” an injection could be ready to deploy in December.

In a 65-day window, researchers have isolated and identified the virus and begun testing a potential vaccine on humans, del Rio said. “That has never, ever occurred before,” he said…

Del Rio said the entire population would not need to get the vaccine for it to be effective in controlling future outbreaks. “If you get 40% of people vaccinated and 20% got the disease, you will get to herd immunity,” he said. “So that’s where we need to get. We don’t need to get 100% of people vaccinated. Herd immunity will then help us.”

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

On Friday [May 15, 2020], the Trump Administration announced the appointment of Moncef Slaoui as chief advisor and General Gustave F. Perna as chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed (OWS), the administration’s national program to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics (medical countermeasures).

Dr. Slaoui is a venture capitalist and, formerly, Chairman of Global Research and Development and Chairman of Global Vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, where he led the development of five major novel vaccines. As the four-star general in charge of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, General Perna oversees the global supply chain and installation and materiel readiness for the U.S. Army, including more than 190,000 military, civilian, and contract employees.

Among its other objectives, Operation Warp Speed aims to have substantial quantities of a safe and effective vaccine available for Americans by January 2021.

Also on May 15th, Moderna announced that Dr. Moncef Slaoui had resigned from Moderna’s Board of Directors upon appointment of his new role to oversee the White House’s Operation Warp Speed initiative. Dr. Slaoui joined Moderna’s Board of Directors in 2017.


“I would like to thank Moncef for his critical insights and three years of service on the Moderna Board,” said Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Chairman of Moderna, and CEO of Flagship Pioneering. “Moncef’s extensive vaccine and therapeutic development guidance were important as we continue to advance Moderna’s mRNA platform. We wish him well in this new role.”

“I am honored to be asked by the Administration to take on this important responsibility,” said Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D., “My entire professional career has been focused on development of therapies and vaccines to benefit many. I was inspired by Moderna’s vision to invest in developing a new class of medicines and vaccines based on messenger RNA. I have valued my time as a Board member and wish the Company the best as it continues its mission for patients.”

“I greatly appreciate Moncef’s contributions to the Moderna Board in his role of Chair of the Product Development Committee,” said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s Chief Executive Officer. “His expertise and skills were invaluable as we approach advanced stages of development across our clinical programs. It has been a privilege to work with Moncef over the last three years.”

MacDailyNews Take: From what we’ve read, many things would have to go very well for a vaccine to arrive so soon, but let’s hope Dr. del Rio’s cautious optimism leads to such an expeditious outcome!

Interns… (Sigh – we keep forgetting.) We’ve got some TTK-ing to do. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend for those of us in the U.S. — happy unofficial start of summer! — and a safe and happy weekend for everyone else. Prost!

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