Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKlines’ vaccines division, listens as U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks on coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on May 15, 2020. The Trump administration, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, announces plans for a major effort to manufacture and market a coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2020.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Two other companies split the day after he was fired from a GlaxoSmithKline-controlled company on allegations of sexual harassment of Moncef Slaoui, the Trump administration’s former Covid vaccine chief.
Centessa Pharmaceuticals announced Thursday that the former head of Operation Warp Speed has resigned as chief scientist with immediate effect. Vaccine developer Vaxcyte said in an SEC filing posted on its website Thursday that Slaoui had agreed to step down as chairman at the company’s request.
Slaoui was fired as chairman of Galvani Bioelectronics, a joint venture between GSK and Verily, on Wednesday after a woman sent GSK a letter saying he sexually molested her a few years ago while she worked there.
GSK said an investigation by an outside law firm “substantiated” its claims. Slaoui, 61, had spent 30 years at GSK overseeing vaccine development at this pharmaceutical giant. He was the chief scientist for the development of the US government’s Covid vaccines for Operation Warp Speed under the former Trump administration.
“The Centessa management team and board of directors were concerned to hear about Dr. Slaoui yesterday’s news,” said Dr. Saurabh Saha, CEO of Centessa Pharmaceuticals, in a statement.
“Centessa is committed to promoting a culture of respect that is free from harassment and discrimination of any kind, and is unwaveringly committed to maintaining a work environment that reflects our strong values as a company.”
Vaxcyte told CNBC in an email Thursday that the company was made aware of the sexual harassment allegations on Wednesday and immediately requested Slaoui to step down from the company’s board of directors.
“Vaxcyte is committed to the highest standards of business conduct and ethics, including a safe and inclusive workplace,” said the company.
GSK said Wednesday that Slaoui was fired one month after receiving a letter from the company “containing allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by Dr. Slaoui against a GSK employee.”
According to GSK, Slaoui’s actions “constitute an abuse of his leadership position, violate company guidelines and contradict the strong values that define GSK’s culture.
Slaoui Reuters reported from Massachusetts-based Centessa Pharmaceuticals in mid-February to advise on its drug development programs, which focus on areas such as hemophilia, cancer and kidney disease. Since 2017 he has been a partner at Medicxi, the investment firm Centessa founded.
That year, Slaoui joined Vaxcyte’s board of directors where he became chairman in May 2018.
Slaoui apologized on Wednesday following the allegations and said he was “deeply sorry”. He said he would be taking leave from other healthcare companies and a venture capital firm to focus on his family.
“I would also like to apologize to my wife and family for the pain this is causing,” Slaoui said in a statement. “I will work hard to recover from everyone who has affected this situation.”
– CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.