Operation Warp Speed: a timeline so far

Operation Warp Speed, the White House's task force to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, aims to deliver 300 million doses of an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021, according to the HHS website.

The initiative hopes to accomplish its goal by investing in and assisting with drugmakers' efforts to create COVID-19 countermeasures. 

Here's a breakdown of Operation Warp Speed's major moves so far:

May 15: HHS formally launched Operation Warp Speed and announced its leadership team. Moncef Slaoui, PhD, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine division, was named as the initiative's chief adviser, and Army Gen. Gustave Perna was named as its COO.

May 18: Dr. Slaoui resigned from Moderna's board and pledged to divest his $10 million in stock options to avoid a conflict of interest in his new role as head of Operation Warp Speed.

May 19: STAT obtained an email saying that two FDA officials who were named as overseers of Operation Warp Speed — Janet Woodcock, MD, and Peter Marks, MD, PhD — will recuse themselves from the agency's considerations about approving COVID-19 vaccines. The news came as the involvement of two top FDA figures elicited criticism from activists concerned about conflicts of interest, as the FDA's primary purpose is to critically assess drugs' safety and efficacy rather than advocate for their approval.

May 21: Operation Warp Speed signed a $1.2 billion deal with AstraZeneca to accelerate its COVID-19 vaccine production. This agreement followed HHS' previous deals with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for their candidates, which were signed before Operation Warp Speed's creation on April 16 and March 30, respectively.

May 22: The FDA reassigned Dr. Woodcock to focus on Operation Warp Speed. Stephen Hahn, MD, the FDA's commissioner, sent an agencywide email announcing Dr. Woodcock will temporarily step aside from her longtime role as director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. 

On the same day, Dr. Hahn also released a series of tweets explaining that Dr. Marks was leaving Operation Warp Speed and returning to his role as director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

June 1: Operation Warp Speed signed a $628 million contract with Emergent BioSolutions to expand the drugmaker's manufacturing capabilities for its vaccine candidate.

June 3: Operation Warp Speed identified five companies most likely to produce vaccine candidates for COVID-19, narrowing down the field from the 14 candidates detailed in the initiative's May 15 news release. The top five were Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer and AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University. 

June 11: Operation Warp Speed launched a $347 million initiative to increase the country's manufacturing capacity for vials, which could be necessary for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

July 7: Operation Warp Speed signed a deal with Novavax, granting the drugmaker $1.6 billion for its vaccine candidate.

July 13: Senior White House officials said more COVID-19 treatments could be available in early fall through Operation Warp Speed during a news briefing.

July 15: Operation Warp Speed decided to let Dr. Slaoui keep his title as a "government contractor," a decision that exempts him from ethics disclosures to which federal employees are subjected and allows him to maintain his pharma company investments.

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