Moncef Slaoui, former scientific head of Operation Warp Speed, the government’s COVID-19 vaccine development effort, has been fired by GlaxoSmithKline after an internal investigation found he sexually harassed a fellow employee several years ago.
Slaoui left his role at GSK in 2017, but continued to serve as chairman of the board for Galvani Bioelectronics, a joint venture between GSK and Verily Life Sciences.
In February, GSK authorities received a letter alleging that Slaoui sexually harassed and acted inappropriately toward a GSK employee several years ago.
A law firm hired by the company confirmed the allegations, according to Emma Walmsley, GSK’s CEO, who wrote a letter Wednesday about the firing sent to all company employees.
“Dr. Slaoui’s behaviours represent an abuse of his leadership position and violate our company policies, our values, and our commitment to Trust – a commitment I know is shared by all of you,” she wrote.
“This simply should not have happened,” she continued. “On a personal level, I am shocked and angry about all of this, but I’m resolute. I want to be clear that sexual harassment is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated. Abuse of leadership position, in any form, will not be tolerated.”
She also said that the company is renaming its research an development facility in Rockville, Maryland, which had been called the Slaoui Center for Vaccines Research.
Slaoui did not immediately respond to a text sent to his phone.
Slaoui, a native of Morocco, began a 30-year career at GSK in 1988, as a vaccine researcher. He was responsible for helping develop vaccines against malaria, cervical cancer, gastroenteritis in children and Ebola.
As co-leader of Operation Warp Speed during the Trump Administration, he was credited with helping speed the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines. He remained as an advisor to the Biden Administration for about a month, but resigned in February.
On Feb. 16, Slaoui announced he was joining Centessa Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based drug developer, as its chief scientific officer. He is also a partner at Medicxi, a venture capital firm specializing in early stage and late stage life sciences investments, which was an investor in Centessa.
Christopher Corsico, GSK’s senior vice president for development and a current member of the Galvani board, has been appointed as the new board chairman of Galvani. Amy Altshul, senior vice president legal, R&D and global commercial franchises at GSK, has also been appointed to the board.
Here is Walmsley’s full letter:
I’m writing to share some difficult news. Today, the GSK Board will publicly announce that Moncef Slaoui has been terminated as the Chairman of the Galvani Bioelectronics Board of Directors, effective immediately. As some of you may know, Galvani is a joint venture between GSK and Verily Life Sciences.
In February, we received a letter containing allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct towards an employee of GSK by Dr. Slaoui, which occurred several years ago when he was an employee of GSK. We immediately initiated an investigation with an experienced law firm, overseen by the Board.
The investigation of Dr. Slaoui’s conduct substantiated the allegations and is ongoing. Dr. Slaoui’s behaviours represent an abuse of his leadership position and violate our company policies, our values, and our commitment to Trust – a commitment I know is shared by all of you.
I am choosing to write openly to everyone because these issues are profoundly important to me. Since February, the highest levels of our company have been working to understand and address what happened. Protecting the woman who came forward and her privacy has been a critical priority throughout this time. This will continue. I respect and admire her courage and strength. I’ve spent many nights lately putting myself in her shoes. More than anything, this simply should not have happened.
We are in an age of progress with a female CEO, growing ranks of female leaders, new commitments to diverse representation, and a culture that values speaking up. I expect everyone to represent GSK with integrity – especially senior leaders.
On a personal level, I am shocked and angry about all of this, but I’m resolute. I want to be clear that sexual harassment is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated. Abuse of leadership position, in any form, will not be tolerated. Where we find evidence of inappropriate behaviour, we take swift and firm action, including withholding pay and termination. In this case, we will also rename our vaccines R&D centre in Rockville.
Having a safe and respectful workplace is a priority for us and we have robust policies and resources in place. Over the last few years, we have worked hard to strengthen our approach, including with our training and safeguarding policy to protect people who voice concerns.
I know that so many of you feel the same way I do about this and we will never stop working to improve GSK, so that all of us feel safe, respected, included – and able to thrive. I want us to lead. As well as our current mandatory training for everyone, we will have more training for our senior leaders on their specific responsibilities to create a safe and respectful workplace. And, we will keep helping our people speak up and support one another in challenging situations.
If you find today’s announcement upsetting, you are not alone. We have the resources to help and ways to raise concerns. And, we have clear procedures in place to deal with issues sensitively.
I will speak personally with many of you in the coming weeks and I know our inspiring leaders across the company will do the same. I want us to be transparent, open – and to feel heard.
GSK is a special place with outstanding people. Our work together changes lives and transforms health around the world every day, and I’m constantly amazed at the innovative new ways we do this. We can’t do our best for patients and customers unless we treat each other with respect and integrity. My commitment to leading this – with all of you – is absolute and unbreakable.
If you have anything you want to share regarding this situation, a situation you’ve been in personally, or one you’ve been aware of, please use the channels provided in the Resource Pack and trained professionals will help you.