Biden picks former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, the government's vaccination drive

  • Dr. David Kessler will lead the White House's vaccination drive under President-elect Joe Biden, the New York Times reported.
  • Kessler, who will lead Operation Warp Speed, has advised Biden's transition team on COVID-19.
  • He also led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during the 1990s.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Dr. David Kessler, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, will lead the White House's COVID-19 vaccination drive under President-elect Joe Biden, a Biden transition spokesperson told The New York Times Friday.

Biden chose Kessler to replace Dr. Moncef Slaoui as head of Operation Warp Speed, the spokesperson said. Slaoui will become a consultant to the project.

Kessler has advised Biden on COVID-19 policy, including co-chairing the Biden transition team's COVID-19 taskforce.

"[He] has probably briefed Biden 50 or 60 times since March," Anita Dunn, co-chair of the transition team, told the Times.

Kessler has experience leading a federal agency during a healthcare crisis: he served as FDA commissioner from 1990 to 1997 under Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, and led the agency's response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Gen. Gustave Perna will remain as chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the spokesperson told the publication.

Read more: Inside Moderna's historic coronavirus vaccine program that transformed the biotech upstart into a $55 billion drug industry powerhouse

In his role as chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed, Kessler will oversee a range of areas related to both the development and distribution of vaccines. He will also oversee Operation Warp Speed's work into developing and assessing COVID-19 treatments.

On Tuesday, sources told CNBC that Slaoui had stepped down at the request of Biden's transition team.

Slaoui had announced plans in November to step down from the role at the end of 2020 or early 2021, but said his departure would be unrelated to the change of administration.

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