(p. A1) A dozen of America’s top scientists and a collection of billionaires and industry titans say they have the answer to the coronavirus pandemic, and they found a backdoor to deliver their plan to the White House.
The eclectic group is led by a 33-year-old physician-turned-venture capitalist, Tom Cahill, who lives far from the public eye in a one-bedroom rental near Boston’s Fenway Park. He owns just one suit, but he has enough lofty connections to influence government decisions in the war against Covid-19.
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(p. A6) Brian Sheth, co-founder of private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners, and a Democrat, had been watching the effort gather steam from his home in Austin, Texas. He was an early investor in Dr. Cahill’s fund and had been on the first call. His expertise was technology, though, not immunology.
He had become friendly with Thomas Hicks Jr., the Dallas businessman and co-chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Sheth introduced Mr. Hicks to Dr. Cahill’s group.
The connection cinched ties between a group of mostly liberal scientists from left-leaning institutions with a Republican stalwart who hunts birds with Donald Trump Jr.
In his first chat with the group, Mr. Hicks said, “I’m not a scientist. Make it clear enough for me, and then tell me where the red tape is.”
A major concern of the scientists was the FDA. The scientists had in their research identified monoclonal antibody drugs that latch onto virus cells as the most promising treatment. But to make the medicine in sufficient quantities, one drugmaker, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., would have to shift some of its existing manufacturing to Ireland. FDA rules required a monthslong wait for approval.
Mr. Scolnick, who had tussled with bureaucracy during the AIDS epidemic, tried reaching the FDA. The call ended poorly after the bureaucrats told the group they already had the pandemic under control. In a group call afterward, one of the scientists said, of the FDA: “They’re the problem here.”
Dr. Cahill got in touch with Mr. Ayers. Once the group briefed the vice president’s aide on the bottleneck, Mr. Ayers said he knew who to call. That evening, March 27, Regeneron received a call from the FDA. They had permission, starting immediately, to shift production to Dublin.
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(Note: the online version of the article has the date April 27, 2020, and the title “The Secret Group of Scientists and Billionaires Pushing a Manhattan Project for Covid-19.”)