GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company, said on Wednesday that it had fired Moncef Slaoui, the former head of Operation Warp Speed, from his position as chairman of Galvani Bioelectronics because of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.
The company cited allegations made by a female employee regarding incidents that occurred at GSK several years ago. The decision to terminate Dr. Slaoui is effective immediately, GSK said in a statement. GSK is the majority shareholder in Galvani Bioelectronics, a medical research company that is a joint venture with Verily Life Sciences.
In statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Slaoui apologized “unreservedly to the employee concerned,” and to his wife and family “for the pain this is causing.”
“I am deeply sorry for any distress caused,” he said, adding that he will take leave from his professional responsibilities “to focus on my family.”
GSK said it had received a letter accusing Dr. Slaoui, 61, of sexual harassment and had asked a law firm to investigate. The investigation confirmed the allegations, GSK said, adding that the investigation is continuing.
Emma Walmsley, chief executive of GSK, sent a letter to employees on Wednesday saying the company had learned of the allegations in February. Neither she nor the GSK board provided details of the allegations.
“Dr. Slaoui’s behaviours represent an abuse of his leadership position and violate our company policies, our values, and our commitment to trust,” she wrote.
“Protecting the woman who came forward and her privacy has been a critical priority throughout this time,” she added. “This will continue. I respect and admire her courage and strength. I’ve spent many nights lately putting myself in her shoes.”
Dr. Slaoui came to Operation Warp Speed from GSK, where he was in charge of developing vaccines. He headed the Trump administration’s vaccine acceleration efforts from May until January.
He drew criticism for owning stock in Moderna, maker of a coronavirus vaccine, and in GSK, which was pursuing a vaccine with Sanofi. The federal government invested $2.1 billion in the latter effort.
Dr. Slaoui eventually agreed to give up his stock in Moderna but not in GSK. To sidestep ethics regulations that would have prohibited him from owning that stock, the Trump administration designated him as a contractor.
After leaving the administration, Dr. Slaoui joined a new company, Centessa Pharmaceuticals, made up of ten biotech companies with $250 million from investors, as chief scientific officer.