Executives from some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies—Gilead, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer among them—met with President Trump and other officials on Monday, March 2nd, to discuss the timeline of a coronavirus vaccine.
The meeting, which was originally scheduled to discuss drug pricing, which Trump has called a “rip-off” for years, shifted to talk around a vaccine to help combat the escalating outbreak.
The President, however, seemed to fail to understand the timeline of such a process, and it had to be explained to him by the executives, as well as members of his coronavirus task force.
According to an official briefing statement released by the White House, the conversation included, in part, the following exchange:
President Donald Trump: What is your timing then? What would you say?
Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna: So we’re hoping to get the phase one start very soon now. We’re just waiting for a green light. The product is at the NIH. And then, it will be a few months to get the human data that will allow us to pick (inaudible) dose to start the phase two right away.
President Donald Trump: So you’re talking over the next few months, you think you could have a vaccine.
Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna: Correct. Correct. With phase two.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Yeah. You won’t have a vaccine. You’ll have a vaccine to go into testing.
Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna: Phase two, yeah.
President Donald Trump: And how long would that take?
Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna: The phase two would take a few months before going to phase three.
President Donald Trump: All right. So you’re talking within a year —
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: A year to a year and a half.
President Donald Trump: Well, but, Lenny is talking about two months, right? (Laughter.)
Dr. Leonard Schleifer, Founder and CEO of Regeneron: A little — a little longer. A little longer.
Daniel Menichella, CEO of CureVac: And we would be there in June. We will be there in June if they (inaudible).
President Donald Trump: A couple of months, right? I mean, I like the sound of a couple of months better, I must be honest with you.
Alex Azar, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services: But when you say June phase one initiation, though — right? — in June, it’s not a completed vaccine. I just want to (inaudible).
Daniel Menichella, CEO of CureVac: Well, you have a vaccine that would be ready for testing in phase one. (Inaudible) talking about a completed —
President Donald Trump: Ready to use when, would you say? Ready to use. Next season?
Daniel Menichella, CEO of CureVac: So, assuming that the vaccine is well tolerated — it’s safe and efficacious, as John said — then I think the question is, how do we work with the FDA to expedite that as fast as possible through some sort of fast-track program to get it through phase two and three testing to get to —
President Donald Trump: So quickly.
Daniel Menichella, CEO of CureVac: So, as quickly as possible. Absolutely.
President Donald Trump: What do you say to that, Lenny?
Dr. Leonard Schleifer, Founder and CEO of Regeneron: Look, I sense the cautiousness of Dr. Fauci, and he’s right to be cautious. Because vaccines have to be tested because there’s precedence for vaccines to actually make diseases worse. And you really don’t want to make it — you don’t want to rush and make it — you don’t want to rush and treat a million people and find out you’re making 900,000 of them worse.
President Donald Trump: That’s a good idea.
Coronavirus has now been detected in almost 70 locations internationally, including in the United States, and has claimed the lives of at least 10 Americans and has sickened more than 100,000 others globally.