Scientists, billionaires team up to aid White House in coronavirus battle

A group of scientists and billionaires has joined forces to form a contemporary “Manhattan Project” designed to help the White House battle the coronavirus outbreak, according to a report.

Calling themselves “Scientists to Stop COVID-19,” the collection of top researchers, billionaires and industry captains will act as an “ad hoc review board” for the torrent of coronavirus research, “weeding out” flawed data before it reaches policymakers, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

They are also acting as a go-between for pharmaceutical companies seeking to build a communication channel with Trump administration officials.

The group — who have likened their effort to the World War II-era “Manhattan Project,” which developed the atomic bomb — has advised Nick Ayers, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, as well as other agency heads, in the past month.

Pence is heading up the White House coronavirus task force.

The brainy bunch is led by Thomas Cahill, a 33-year old doctor who became a venture capitalist, and includes 2017 Nobel Prize winner Michael Rosbash, a neuroscientist and professor of biology at Brandeis University and Stuart Schreiber, a Harvard chemistry and chemical biology professor.

Cahill’s clout comes from building connections through his investment firm, Newpath Partners, with Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal, and billionaire businessmen Jim Palotta  and Michael Milken.

Members of the group say they aren’t in it for financial gain, but are motivated by providing assistance for a fight that has strained federal and state governments, dealt a crucial blow to the economy and ultimately inflected more than 3 million worldwide.

“We may fail,” Schreiber told the Journal. “But if it succeeds, it could change the world.”

Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White HouseVice President Mike Pence, leader of the White House’s coronavirus task forceAP

The group has compiled a 17-page plan that offers “four actionable, non-partisan proposals to produce safe and effective COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines in the shortest possible timeframe, and to reopen our society in a manner that reduces the risk of future COVID-19 outbreaks,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Steve Pagliuca, the co-owner of the Boston Celtics, who helped copy edit some of the report, passed a copy to the CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. David Solomon, who got it to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Among the proposals are repurposing established drugs on a “greatly accelerated time scale” and developing antibodies that could be used to “protect healthy critical workers, as well as ‘high-risk’ individuals.”

One of the promising drugs is Remdesivir, which was developed for use against Ebola.

Long-term control of the pandemic would require the “development and implementation of an effective vaccine.”


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