The UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of shares in a company that has been contracted to develop a coronavirus vaccine for the government, a report has revealed.
The Telegraph notes that Vallance owns 43,000 shares in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) where he used to work as head of research and development.
Vallance previously accumulated 404,201 GSK shares, equating to a humongous £6.1 million in six years between 2012 to 2018, according to the report.
When he was appointed by the government, Vallance sold most of the shares, cashing in on £5 million, but did retain a sizeable portion, which would provide quite a return should GSK’s vaccine come out on top over that of other pharmaceutical companies.
The Telegraph report notes that GSK has already signed contracts with both the UK and US governments, which could see up to 60 million doses of the vaccine provided in the UK and 100 million doses in the US.
The US government has already advanced £1.65 million to GSK, working along with Sanofi, another drug manufacturer. The deals have seen GSK’s share price increase by close to two percent.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock denied that Vallance holding GSK shares was a conflict of interest, saying “there are rules around these kinds of things and I’m sure that Sir Patrick has been fully advised by them.”
“If you know Sir Patrick Vallance as I do, any suggestion that he is doing anything other than his level best to try and tackle this virus is wrong,” Hancock claimed.
Another anonymous spokesperson for the UK government also denied the conflict of interest, noting that Vallance does not have any input on the government’s decisions to procure vaccines, and that “appropriate steps were taken to manage the government chief scientific adviser’s (GCSA) interests in line with advice provided at the time.”
Hancock has previously said that he hopes ‘everybody would have the vaccine’, if and when a coronavirus shot is rolled out, and refused to rule out making it mandatory for every citizen.
In the UK, scientists previously expressed doubts over the effectiveness of a vaccine that has been rushed to human trials, after all of the monkeys used in initial testing later contracted coronavirus.
Now, reports indicate that the UK government is seriously considering deliberately infecting healthy volunteers with coronavirus in order to further test possible vaccines.