The head of Britain’s Vaccine Taskforce has been slammed for revealing secret government plans on potential vaccines to financiers at an American venture capital conference.
Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist who is married to a Conservative Treasury minister, spent an hour talking about the UK government‘s Covid strategy to a ‘premier webinar and networking event’ for women in private equity hosted by a Massachusetts company.
Video footage of the event shows Bingham, 55, using a detailed list of vaccines which the UK government is closely monitoring and could later invest in in her presentation slides.
Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist who is married to a Conservative Treasury minister, spent an hour talking about the UK government’s Covid strategy to a ‘premier webinar and networking event’ for women in private equity
Bingham told virtual attendees of the $200-a-head conference: ‘We haven’t necessarily signed contracts with all of them so far. But they’re all in our sights,’ according to The Sunday Times.
A handful of the vaccines listed are owned by publicly traded companies, which could be invested in by those attending the conference.
She was appointed to lead the UK’s efforts to research and produce a coronavirus vaccine by Boris Johnson in May, despite having no vaccines expertise.
Bingham also retains her role a managing director of SV Health Investors, a Boston-based venture capital company that had $2bilion worth of investments in biotech or medical ventures in 2017.
Bingham told virtual attendees of the $200-a-head conference: ‘We haven’t necessarily signed contracts with all of them so far. But they’re all in our sights’
The Oxford and Harvard-educated businesswoman spent almost 30 years at the company, and is lauded as having helped fund six drugs for patients with autoimmune diseases and cancer.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said only that she does not work for SV ‘full time’.
Responding to her appearance, Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, said the talk had been ‘seriously ill-advised’, and Bingham represented another example of a ‘pretty shocking’ recruitment process in government.
‘It must raise a question as to whether she is a suitable person to be chairing a taskforce like that,’ he added.
Slides in her presentation included sensitive government documents detailing the vaccines No10 is monitoring and could invest in in the future
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: ‘We are in a public health crisis and this information should be shared with the public.’
Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, added: ‘These revelations are deeply concerning – not only because trust in a government official is in jeopardy but because the law could have been broken.
‘It also really doesn’t do much for public confidence at all that this is yet another close friend of the Conservative Party – there are serious questions to answer about these links.
‘I will be writing to the Cabinet Secretary for a swift investigation into this.’
The wide-ranging talk by Bingham also revealed that she expects all over-50s to have a vaccine available to them by Easter.
However, she also produced official documents predicting that up to 40 per cent of adults will never take a vaccine.
As a result, officials are weighing up a programme for next year that will see the vulnerable given one dose of flu vaccine and two doses for the coronavirus.
Falk Marques Group, who organised the summit, described it as a ‘not-to-be missed webinar’, telling financier clientele that Bingham ‘is intimately familiar with the complexities of vaccine development’.
A government spokesman said: ‘Kate Bingham’s focus is on her work as chair of the Vaccines Taskforce’
‘Kate will discuss the international effort to develop the vaccine, the likely timeline for approvals, and what it will take to not only distribute the vaccine on a global scale, but also the importance of convincing billions of people around the world to get vaccinated.
‘She will share with us a global perspective on the progress that is being made and the likelihood that the virus will be contained in 2021.’
An on-demand recording of the webinar is still available for $199.
A government spokesman said: ‘Kate Bingham’s focus is on her work as chair of the Vaccines Taskforce.
‘This includes … discussion with a wide range of companies from pharmaceutical and manufacturing firms to clinical organisations, as well as with medical and academic communities.
‘Her job also involves a significant role in public education, including via the media, and appearances at conferences such as this one.
‘She and the government regularly keep industry, the media and the wider public updated on progress towards the Covid vaccine.’