Moncef Slaoui speaks with President Donald Trump about Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday November 13, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Moncef Slaoui, chief scientist for the US government's Covid vaccine development, Operation Warp Speed, during the Trump administration, was dismissed on Wednesday as chairman of Galvani Bioelectronics on "substantiated" allegations of sexual harassment of a woman.
Slaoui's dismissal by the board of directors of Galvani majority shareholder GlaxoSmithKline came after GSK was sent a letter in February entitled "Allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by Dr. Slaoui against a GSK employee," GSK said in a statement.
This behavior "occurred a few years ago when he was a GSK employee," the statement said.
Slaoui, 61, had spent 30 years at GSK overseeing vaccine development at this pharmaceutical giant.
"Upon receiving the letter, the GSK board immediately opened an investigation with an experienced law firm to investigate the allegations," said GSK.
"The investigation into Dr. Slaoui's behavior has substantiated the allegations and is ongoing."
"Dr. Slaoui's behavior is completely unacceptable," said GSK.
Slaoui did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Galvani Bioelectronics is a medical research company focused on developing bioelectronic drugs for the treatment of chronic diseases. It was formed through a partnership between GSK and Verily Life Sciences, previously known as Google Life Sciences. Verily, it is a subsidiary of the Google parent alphabet.
Slaoui's discharge came 10 months after then-President Donald Trump tapped him to oversee US efforts to develop vaccines to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Moncef Slaoui, a former executive director of GlaxoSmithKline, speaks to President Donald J. Trump during a vaccine development event in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
He is married to Kristen Slaoui, who previously served as Vice President and Head of Business Development at GSK.
Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK, revealed Slaoui's firing in a letter to employees. "On a personal level, I'm shocked and angry about all of this, but I'm determined," she said.
"I want to make it clear that sexual harassment is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated."
She also wrote that GSK will be removing Slaoui's name from its research and development center in Rockville, Maryland. It was called the Slaoui Center for Vaccine Research.
Walmsley also said she decided to "write openly to everyone because these topics are fundamental to me".
"Since February, the highest levels of our company have been working to understand and address what happened," wrote the CEO.
"Protecting the woman who came forward and her privacy has been a major priority during this time. This will continue," Walmsley said. "I respect and admire their courage and strength. I've spent many nights lately putting myself in their shoes. More than anything, this simply shouldn't have happened."
Walmsley asked GSK employees to notify the company "if you have anything to say about this situation, a situation you have personally found yourself in or which you knew."
In its statement, GSK said that Slaoui's actions "constitute an abuse of his leadership position, violate company policies and contradict the strong values that define GSK's culture".
"The company expects everyone at GSK to behave according to their values, especially their executives, who have the highest standards. Sexual harassment and abuse of leadership positions are strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated."
Slaoui joined Centessa Pharmaceuticals last month as a scientific director and advisor. A Centessa spokesman, who started with $ 250 million in funding month, declined to speak to CNBC on Wednesday.
Slaoui is also chairman of the board of directors of vaccine company Vaxcyte. CNBC grabbed a comment from Vaxcyte.
Slaoui also advised the European Union on the introduction of coronavirus vaccines. A report last month said the EU had asked Slaoui for advice and had spoken to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen several times about vaccination strategies.
The European Commission said in a statement emailed to CNBC on Wednesday: "Mr Slaoui has not acted or acted as an advisor to the European Commission. Mr Slaoui has taken part in a number of calls with the Commission President on issues related to developments and discuss production of vaccines and how to address worrisome variants. "
"Mr Slaoui has always insisted on his independence from the European Commission," said the EC. "The Commission does not intend to engage Mr Slaoui as an advisor or to use his services in any way other than exchanging views through ad hoc calls."
Slaoui submitted his resignation as Chief Advisor to Operation Warp Speed to the then-incoming administration of President Joe Biden in January.
He was criticized when he became the lead role of the company for his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
At the time of his appointment, he was on the board of Moderna. Slaoui stepped down from Moderna and sold his stake in the company, whose Covid vaccine was the second to receive emergency approval in the United States. He said he donated their appreciation during the days he held the stock during Operation Warp Speed.
But he had refused to sell his GSK stock, calling it his retirement plan.
GSK announced on Wednesday that Christopher Corsico, senior vice president of development and member of the Galvani board of directors, has been named as the new chairman of Galvani.
GSK also said that Amy Altshul, senior vice president of legal, research and development, and global commercial franchises, has joined Galvani's board of directors.
– CNBCs Steve Kopack contributed to this report.