Sir Patrick Vallance
© Simon Dawson/REUTERS
Sir Patrick Vallance, UK’s chief scientific adviser, has already cashed in more than £5 million worth of shares he received from GSK during his tenure from 2012 until March 2018.
Government denies claims of potential conflict of interest, maintaining he is not involved in commercial decisions on coronavirus vaccines.

The UK's chief scientific adviser has a £600,000 shareholding in a drugs giant contracted to develop a Covid-19 vaccine for the Government, prompting claims of a potential conflict of interest.

Sir Patrick Vallance, who also chairs the Government's expert advisory panel on vaccines, holds a deferred bonus of 43,111 shares in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) worth £600,000 from his time as president of the multinational drug company, The Telegraph can reveal.

He has already cashed in more than £5 million worth of shares he received from the company during his tenure from 2012 until March 2018, when he became the Government's chief scientific officer.

Accounts show he held 404,201 GSK shares when he left, worth £6.1 million at current values.

In July, GSK and drugs multinational Sanofi agreed a deal with the UK Government to supply it with up to 60 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, subject to final contract.

It has a similar deal with the US Government for an initial 100 million doses as part of Donald Trump's Operation Warp Speed.

Earlier this week at the televised briefing heralding the latest Covid-19 crackdown (see video below), Sir Patrick predicted the first few doses of an effective Covid-19 vaccine might be available before the end of this year, but said it was far more likely any breakthrough will happen during the first six months of 2021.

A senior Tory MP and former Cabinet minister said Sir Patrick should have disclosed his interest.

"The policy of this Government is to try to suppress Covid-19 at every opportunity until we get a vaccine," said the MP.

"That makes it more likely that a vaccine will be prioritised by the Government and he happens to be holding shares in one of the leading companies that are developing it. It is a potential conflict of interest.

"If he is making decisions on vaccines and advising the Government on them, then he either needs to divest himself of the shares or make a declaration every time he touches on the subject.

"In the Commons, every time MPs raise an issue in which there is a registered interest, they have to declare it. Every time he is talking about vaccines or on TV, he should put it on the table."

GSK is one of more than 20 drug firms racing to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The successful companies stand to make millions. The US Government has already provided £1.65 billion to GSK-Sanofi to support the development of its vaccine, including clinical trials.

GSK's share price rose by nearly two per cent after it announced its partnership with Sanofi to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses, if human clinical trials due to begin shortly go to plan.

A Government spokesman confirmed Sir Patrick held a deferred share bonus which would mature in April 2021 but refused to reveal the number of shares or disclose their value.

He said he had sold his other GSK shares before starting his Government role or after a mandatory holding period.

"Upon his appointment, appropriate steps were taken to manage the Government chief scientific adviser's (GCSA) interests in line with advice provided at the time," said the spokesman.

Sir Patrick is "closely involved" in the operations of the Government's vaccines taskforce as well as chairing the expert advisory panel on vaccines, according to Whitehall sources.

However, the spokesman said: "The GCSA has no input into contractual and commercial decisions on vaccine procurement which are taken by ministers following a robust cross-Government approvals regime."

On the council for science and technology register, his personal and business interests state: "GSK shareholdings (mandatory holding period for deferred bonus)."