Moncef Slaoui, the former head of the US government’s COVID-19 vaccine initiative called Operation Warp Speed, has been fired from the Galvani Bioelectronics Board of Directors following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations. GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical company that jointly oversees Galvani and formerly employed Slaoui directly, received a complaint from an employee in February. According to a March 24 statement from the company, the investigation substantiated the claims and resulted in Slaoui’s dismissal as Galvani’s chair.
Slaoui led vaccine development at GSK until 2017. The letter sent by the victim to the GSK Board claimed that Slaoui engaged in harassing behavior many years ago during his tenure there. The company did not share specifics on the nature of the harassment or a narrower window on when it happened.
“Dr. Slaoui’s behaviours 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,” the statement reads. “Sexual harassment and any abuse of leadership position are strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated.”
In May 2020, Slaoui was chosen by then-President Donald Trump to head up Operation Warp Speed. Shortly after taking the role, Slaoui came under fire as he held onto his investments in pharmaceutical companies including Moderna, which exploded in value from $2.4 million to $12.4 million in a matter of days, though the terms of his contract did not require him to disclose any conflicts of interest. The New York Times reported in May 2020 that Slaoui sold the Moderna shares and said any profits would be donated to cancer research. He resigned from his role in January at the request of the incoming Biden administration, CNBC reports.
In addition to the press release from the company, GSK CEO Emma Walmsley sent an open letter to the company’s employees that was then shared on Twitter, expressing her frustration with Slaoui’s actions.
“On a personal level, I am shocked and angry about all of this, but I’m resolute,” she writes. “I want to be clear that sexual harassment is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated.”
Walmsley’s letter included resources for employees to report untoward behavior related to Slaoui or any others, along with support for anyone upset by the situation. As an added measure, Walmsley announced that the research and development lab in Rockville, Maryland, that currently bears Slaoui’s name will be renamed.