The former science head of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines, was fired from a company board this week over sexual harassment claims.
Moncef Slaoui was terminated as chairman of the Galvani Bioelectronics board of directors, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said in a statement.
GSK, the majority shareholder in Galvani, said the firing followed the receipt of a letter containing allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct toward an employee of GSK by Slaoui, which happened several years ago when he was working for GSK.
An investigation of the claims by a law firm substantiated the allegations, the company said.
“Dr. Slaoui’s behaviors are wholly unacceptable. They represent an abuse of his leadership position, violate company policies, and are contrary to the strong values that define GSK’s culture,” GSK said. “The company expects everyone at GSK to behave in accordance with its values, especially its leaders where its standards are the highest. Sexual harassment and any abuse of leadership position are strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated.”
Slaoui said in a statement that he acknowledged the termination notice.
“I have the utmost respect for my colleagues and feel terrible that my actions have put a former colleague in an uncomfortable situation. I would like to apologize unreservedly to the employee concerned and I am deeply sorry for any distress caused. I would also like to apologize to my wife and family for the pain this is causing,” he said.
Slaoui added he will be taking a leave of absence from his current professional responsibilities effective immediately to focus on his family.
Former President Donald Trump picked Slaoui to be his vaccine czar in May 2020. The Operation Warp Speed effort resulted in two vaccines authorized for emergency use before Trump left office.