Slaoui apologizes 'unreservedly' after sexual harassment allegations prompt biotechs to part ways

Medicxi partner Moncef Slaoui
Moncef Slaoui, M.D., said he would like to "apologize unreservedly" to the GlaxoSmithKline employee who accused him of sexual harassment. (Medicxi)

No deflecting, no denying. Moncef Slaoui, M.D., issued an open apology around the sexual harassment allegation that led GlaxoSmithKline to cut ties on Wednesday. But the biopharma world isn’t in a forgiving mood right now.

“I would like to apologize unreservedly to the employee concerned and I am deeply sorry for any distress caused,” Slaoui said in a statement Wednesday.

The former GSK vaccine exec and head of Operation Warp Speed said he’ll “work hard to redeem” himself with those affected, but for now he’ll hunker down by stepping away from his current positions in the industry to focus on family.

The apology came after GSK booted him from chairmanship at GSK-controlled Galvani Bioelectronics over allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior by an employee that happened years ago, when he was with GSK. The British drugmaker said an investigation into Slaoui’s conduct had substantiated the claims.

Whatever his own decisions, GSK’s damning accusation Wednesday leaves little room for Slaoui’s career in today’s biopharma industry. Newly launched mega-biotech Centessa Pharmaceuticals immediately parted ways with him, merely a month after tapping him as chief scientific officer.

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Centessa’s management and board “were troubled to learn of yesterday’s news regarding Dr. Slaoui,” Centessa CEO Saurabh Saha, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement Thursday. “Centessa is absolutely committed to fostering a culture of respect that is free from harassment and discrimination of any kind.”

Centessa was founded by life sciences venture capital bigwig Medicxi, which Slaoui joined as a partner in September 2017.

The European investment shop said Thursday that Slaoui has also resigned from that position following the accusation. “We would like to re-state that Medicxi's values are based on respect, trust and teamwork, and we are committed to working in an environment which reflects such values and culture,” it said in a statement.

RELATED: Warp Speed chief Slaoui resigns at Biden's request as COVID-19 shots are unleashed: report

U.S. vaccine developer Vaxcyte also said Thursday that Slaoui has stepped down as its chairman. Medixci also participated in the company’s previous funding round when the firm was known as SutroVax.

Editor's Note: The story has been updated with information about Mr. Slaoui's status with Medicxi.