Bosses at Pfizer cashed in shares worth more than £5million on the day the firm revealed it had developed the first working coronavirus vaccine.
Albert Bourla, the chief executive, sold stock worth £4million on Monday as the share price rocketed, regulatory filings show.
He offloaded 132,500 at $41.94 (£31.70) each, the price the stock hit seconds after the company revealed that its potential coronavirus vaccine could be more than 90 per cent effective.
Vaccine windfall: Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla sold stock worth £4m on Monday as the share price rocketed after firm revealed it had developed the first working coronavirus vaccine
The results – though yet to be confirmed by peer review and regulators – were hailed as a huge breakthrough around the world.
A second Pfizer executive, Sally Susman, also offloaded shares, worth £1.4million, at the same price as Bourla.
A vaccine is crucial to ending the pandemic and allowing a return to normal life. Bourla has said that he knew about the trial’s results a day before they were made public.
But Pfizer said the share sale was part of a scheduled plan, set up to offload his stock holdings periodically.
It was triggered when the shares hit a pre-determined price.
Responding to questions about why Bourla, 58, had not cancelled the plan to avoid the appearance of impropriety, the Pfizer spokesman told CNN: ‘These are predetermined plans managed through a third-party stock administrator.’
When they were announced on Monday, the company’s shares surged 7.7 per cent higher. Pfizer’s trial results have been hailed as ‘a great day for science and humanity’.
Last night a Pfizer spokesman said: ‘The sale of these shares is part of Dr… Bourla’s personal financial planning and a pre- established plan, which allows, under Securities and Exchange Commission rules, major shareholders and insiders of exchange-listed corporations to trade a pre-determined number of shares at a predetermined time.
‘Through our stock plan administrator, Dr Bourla authorised the sale of these shares on August 19, provided the stock was at least at a certain price.’
The US firm said its jab had 90 per cent success in preventing the virus.
Along with its partner firm, Biontech, the company expects to be able to make up to 50m doses globally this year and up to 1.3billion next year.
The vaccine has been shown to produce both an antibody and T-cell response in the body to fight coronavirus.
It was tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns arose.
Pfizer and Biontech plan to apply to the US medicines regulator by the end of this month for emergency approval to use the vaccine.
In Britain, it is hoped it can be begin as early as next month after being fast-tracked by regulators.
The National Health Service has been told to be ready to start administering it by early next month, with care home patients and staff, over-80s, and health and social care workers first in line to receive the jab.