GSK fired its former head of research Moncef Slaoui, who became America’s national vaccine chief under Donald Trump, after an independent investigation found he sexually harassed one of its employees.
GSK said it had terminated Slaoui’s role in Galvani Bioelectronics, a majority-owned joint venture by GSK, effective immediately. Slaoui had run the US vaccine program Operation Warp Speed until January.
His firing followed an investigation by Washington-based law firm Morgan Lewis, which was given a mandate in February after GSK managers received a letter containing allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct toward an employee. by Slaoui. The misconduct is alleged to have occurred several years ago. “The investigation into Dr. Slaoui’s conduct confirmed the allegations and is ongoing,” the firm said.
The scientist, who was head of research at GSK for many years and also chaired its vaccine department until 2017, gave his name to the Slaoui Center for Vaccine Research in Rockville, Maryland. GSK said it would change the name of the facility and was also reviewing Slaoui’s share options, which were reportedly worth £ 10 million last year.
Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK since April 2017, wrote in a letter to employees that she was “shocked and angry” but also “resolved.”
“Protecting the woman who came forward and her privacy has been a critical priority throughout this time,” he wrote. “This will continue. I respect and admire your courage and strength. Lately I have spent many nights putting myself in his shoes. More than anything, this just shouldn’t have happened. “
“I want to make it clear that sexual harassment is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated,” he added. “Abuse of the leadership position, in any form, will not be tolerated.” He said he would personally speak to many staff members in the coming weeks.
The investigation was led by Grace Speights, a partner at Morgan Lewis and director of the firm’s labor and employment practice group, who is known for her work in litigation and investigations within organizations in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
61-year-old Moroccan-born Slaoui joined GSK as a drug discovery scientist in 1988. He was a member of the GSK board for 11 years, until 2017, when he was appointed President of Galvani.
In February, after leaving Operation Warp Speed, he joined American biotech firm Centessa Pharmaceuticals, which was created from 10 startups, to lead its research division.
In a statement, GSK said: “Dr. Slaoui’s behaviors are totally unacceptable. They represent an abuse of your leadership position, violate company policies and are contrary to the strong values that define the GSK culture. The company expects everyone at GSK to behave in accordance with its values, especially its leaders, where their standards are the highest. “
Slaoui has been contacted for comment.