Former Sanofi research exec Zerhouni favorite for COVID-19 czar: report

The U.S. government has narrowed down its list of people to be the face of its COVID-19 drug and vaccine response, and reports suggest Elias Zerhouni is currently the favorite.

Zerhouni, who ran the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under former President George W. Bush before a seven-year stint helping run Sanofi’s research business, is leading a narrowing pack for the position as "COVID czar."

This is according to sources talking to Politico, with one person telling the news site that Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, who served as HHS deputy secretary while Zerhouni was NIH director, “personally prefers Zerhouni for the role.”

This czar could also sit at HHS, the White House or the Department of Defense, according to Politico. Art Levinson, CEO of Calico, and Moncef Slaoui, former chairman of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, were also said by the sources to be considered for the role.

As you’d expect, no one was commenting on the rumors.

This new post, which has been on the cards for months now, would see the so-called czar “coordinate the development of Covid-19 therapies and vaccines,” according to the report.

This comes as President Donald Trump said he would continue using his coronavirus task force, although it appears now this will be geared more toward getting the U.S. to reopen after its shutdown.

But three core members of the pandemic response are now having to go into some degree of self-isolation after a presidential aide, who may have had contact with them, tested positive for the virus.

This includes the task force’s public face, Anthony Fauci, M.D., as well as FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.,D., and Robert Redfield, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who have both gone into two weeks of isolation.