Politics, science and the remarkable race for a Coronavirus vaccine

The President was particularly enthusiastic about this goal. At a White House meeting on March 2, and Mr. Bancel and other pharmaceutical executives outlined their vaccine plans, warned Dr. Fauci said it would take a “year to a year and a half” before doses could reach the general public.

Sir. Trump replied, “I like the sound of a few months better.”

Warp Speed ​​had two leaders. Responsible for science was Dr. Slaoui, who had led research and development at the pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline for years and had served on Moderna’s board. Logistics was General Gustave F. Perna, a four-star general who led the Army Materiel Command.

The operation, which operated from a suite on the seventh floor and an operations center on the second floor of the headquarters of health and human services, had a military flavor. Its leaders discussed the book “Freedom’s Forge,” an account of how American industry armed the military in World War II and imposed what they called a “fighting rhythm” of meetings, including a daily session at 6 p.m. 8 on vaccines. Dozens of military officers reported working in uniform.

Dr. Slaoui said the biggest decision was which vaccine candidates should back out of nearly 50 possible candidates. His team decided on three types of vaccines, each to be pursued by two companies if one company failed. Federal officials referred to the finalists as “horses,” a nod to the race between them.

Moderna and Pfizer would pursue the mRNA vaccines, seen as the fastest to develop. The government was ready to use much of the development bill, lead the clinical trials and even supply supplies to factories.

Dr. Bourla was not interested. As one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer did not need federal aid to develop a new product, he decided, and with nearly $ 52 billion in annual revenue, it needed or did not want the subsidy.

“If we did not succeed, we would have to write off $ 2 billion” in vaccine development costs, Dr. Bourla said The New York Times DealBook Online Summit this week. “This is painful for any company, but it would not break us.”

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