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Ex-FDA Chief On White House's Coronavirus Vaccine Shortlist: 'They Chose Very Novel Platforms'

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Ex-FDA Chief On White House's Coronavirus Vaccine Shortlist: 'They Chose Very Novel Platforms'

The Trump administration is prioritizing five COVID-19 vaccine programs, but ex-FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the White House needs to spread its bets.

What Happened

The Trump administration is betting that five companies have the highest chance of producing a working vaccine against COVID-19. They are: AstraZeneca plc (NYSE: AZN), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Merck & Co, Inc. (NYSE: MRK), Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE).

As part of the public-private partnership, the government will prioritize clinical trial access for these five companies, Gottlieb said on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

The clinical trials will consist of 10,000 to 15,000 patients for each vaccine against a standard control arm of around 15,000 patients.

Why It's Important

The White House selected three viral vector-based vaccines and two mRNA platforms, Gottlieb said. The mix does not include any "old-style technology," which is surprising, he said. 

"If you want to spread your bets, you probably want to spread your bets across different platforms," Gottlieb said. "And they chose very novel platforms."

What's Next

Companies working on a vaccine that weren't included in the White House's five picks face an impediment moving forward, Gottlieb said.

Clinical trial access will be a "critical issue" into the fall season, and the five companies named by the White House will have top priority in finding patients, he said. 

Companies may need to look outside of the U.S. to continue trials, but smaller ones don't have the capacity to do so, the former agency head said. 

"It's going to be more challenging to move quickly for any of the other vaccine manufacturers." 

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