May 15 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Friday named a former pharmaceutical researcher and a four-star general to lead the U.S. coronavirus vaccine effort.
Speaking from the Rose Garden at the White House, the president said that under Operation Warp Speed, he hopes to have a vaccine available by the end of the year.
"We'd love to see if we could do it prior to the end of the year," Trump said, saying the name of the project "means big and it means fast."
"A massive scientific and industrial endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project."
Leading Operation Warp Speed will be Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines division, and Army Gen. Gustave Perna.
Trump said the operation has brought together public health experts from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Defense to develop and distribute a "proven" vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
Vaccines expert Dr. Rick Bright told a House committee on Thursday that hopes of having a vaccine within 18 months are likely too optimistic.
Trump said the NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services has worked with private industries to identify more than 100 potential treatments, 14 of which they have identified as most promising.
"It's risky, it's expensive, but we'll be saving massive amounts of time, we'll be saving years if we do this properly and that's what we're doing," Trump said.
The president said the United States is conducting 350,000 tests per day.
"We are looking to get it [the vaccine] by the end of the year if we can. Tremendous strides are being made.
"We will be reigniting our economic engines," Trump said of moves to reopen businesses. "Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that he would be concerned about reopening before seeing a solid decline in cases.
On Thursday, Trump said the military will assist in the distribution of the vaccine once it's ready.
"We're mobilizing our military and other forces but we're mobilizing our military on the basis that we do have a vaccine," he told Fox Business.