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Former Operation Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui apologizes after sexual harassment claim

Moncef Slaoui, a prehistoric GlaxoSmithKline executive, speaks with President Donald J. Trump during a vaccine development event in the Rose Garden at the Creamy House on Friday, May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Moncef Slaoui, who headed Covid vaccination incident efforts under the Trump administration, said Wednesday he was “deeply sorry” to a woman whose claim of sexual harassment led to his ouster earlier in the day as chairman of a plc backed by pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Slaoui also said that he is taking a leave of absence from capacities at other health companies and a venture capital firm to focus on his family, to whom he also apologized.

Slaoui, who disgorge 30 years at GSK, was chief scientist for Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s project to develop vaccines to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, GSK bid its board had fired the 61-year-old as chairman of Galvani Bioelectronics because of “substantiated” allegations he sexually harassed and had inappropriate demeanour toward a female employee at GSK several years ago. GSK is Galvani’s majority shareholder.

The woman made the allegations in a letter sent to GSK in February. A law upon hired by the drug company, Morgan, Lewis & Bokius, is continuing to investigate her claims.

“It is with deep regret that I allow today’s statement from GlaxoSmithKline plc regarding my termination as Chair of the Galvani Board of Directors,” Slaoui said in a expression late Wednesday.

“I have the utmost respect for my colleagues and feel terrible that my actions have put a former ally in an uncomfortable situation. I would like to apologise unreservedly to the employee concerned and I am deeply sorry for any distress caused,” he indicated.

“I would also like to apologise to my wife and family for the pain this is causing,” Slaoui said.

“I will earn a living hard to redeem myself with all those that this situation has impacted,” he said.

Slaoiui is married to Kristen Slaoui, who earlier served as vice president and head of business development at GSK.

GSK issued a damning statement about Slaoui in announcing his stop from Galvani.

“Dr. Slaoui’s behaviours are wholly unacceptable,” wrote GSK, which is stripping Slaoui’s name from its vaccines scrutinization center in Rockville, Maryland.

The company also said Slaoui’s actions “represent an abuse of his leadership position, infringe company policies, and are contrary to the strong values that define GSK’s culture.”

“The company expects everyone at GSK to behave in accordance with its values, outstandingly its leaders where its standards are the highest.”

GSK CEO Emma Walmsley, in a separate letter to employees, said she was “shocked and angry everywhere all of this, but I’m resolute.”

“I want to be clear that sexual harassment is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated,” wrote Walmsley.

“Tending the woman who came forward and her privacy has been a critical priority throughout this time. This will persist in,” Walmsley wrote. “I respect and admire her courage and strength. I’ve spent many nights lately putting myself in her shoes. Various than anything, this simply should not have happened.”

Galvani is a medical research company focused on come about bioelectronic medicines for the treatment of chronic diseases. It was formed through a partnership by GSK and Verily Life Sciences, which before was known as Google Life Sciences. Verily is a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet.

Slaoui last month joined Centessa Pharmaceuticals as chief systematic officer and advisor.

Centessa was founded by the venture capital firm Medicxi. Slaoui has been a partner in Medicxi since 2017.

Slaoui also is chairman of the lodge of directors at the vaccine company Vaxcyte.

A GSK spokeswoman, when asked if the company would share details of its investigation of Slaoui with other firms that he is combined with, said, “We are not sharing anything beyond what we have said publicly at this time.”

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