The couple behind Pfizer’s 90% Effective COVID Vaccine
The world rejoiced when they found out that Pfizer developed a COVID-19 Vaccine that is 90% effective. It’s being regarded as the turning point in the fight against the Coronavirus. However, not many people know about the couple without which the Pfizer vaccine would not have been possible.
Now, the American big pharma Pfizer did fund the majority of the R&D behind the vaccine. However, the technology and science belonged to BioNTech, which is a German company owned by dedicated physicians Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, who are also a married couple. Together, they’re the ones who are getting all the credit for the COVID vaccine.
The couple behind the Pfizer vaccine
Both Sahin and Tureci are entrepreneurs and scientists. At age 55 and 53, respectively, they are now among the 100 richest Germans, as the value of their company BioNTech soared above $21 billion in the wake of the Pfizer vaccine. However, they had humble beginnings as children of immigrants.
Sahin, who is the CEO of BioNTech, was born in Iskenderun, a city in Turkey. He moved to West Germany at the age of four with his father, who was a migrant worker at a Ford factory in Cologne. On the other hand, Dr. Tureci is the company chief medical officer and is German-born but her father migrated to the country from Istanbul.
How their incredible career began
The couple met early each other in their academic career as Sahin trained as a doctor in Cologne and Hamburg. They were so dedicated to their work that even on their wedding day, Dr. Tureci said that the two took out time for lab work. And before making BioNTech and the successful Pfizer vaccine, they started off with a company called Ganymed Pharmaceuticals, set up in 2001. That company majorly focused on finding a cure for cancer. They sold it for $1.4 billion in 2016, however, they began BioNTech back in 2008 to develop a much broader range of cancer immunotherapy tools.
Luckily, the work the couple did on mRNA in Ganymed is what helped them in developing the successful Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. He saw a scientific paper in January on the novel Coronavirus from Wuhan. And he realized that his anti-cancer mRNA drug could be used to make an mRNA virus vaccine. He then secured a partnership from Pfizer and Chinese drug makers Fosun in March and began the protect “light speed”. And so, we finally have the Pfizer vaccine with more than 90% effectiveness.
Related: The first man to get coronavirus vaccine, William Shakespeare, dies at 81 from unrelated causes
Despite the competence, Dr. Sahin and Dr. Tureci are humble
Other than such incredible professional credentials, Professor Sahin is also a modest and humble person. His colleague Matthias Theobald at Mainz University had this to say about the man behind the Pfizer vaccine:
He is a very modest and humble person. Appearances mean little to him. But he wants to create the structures that allow him to realise his visions and that’s where his aspirations are far from modest.
He also further talked about Dr. Tureci, saying:
They’re proud of course. They’re celebrities in a scientific way but they’re very humble, they always have been.
Furthermore, Sean Marett, the chief commercial officer of BioNTech calls Sahin an exceptional “visionary,” saying:
He can see the way things are going, sometimes before other people can.
It’s good that the endeavor of a COVID-19 vaccine fell on this hard-working and incredibly talented couple’s hands. Their hard work and ingenuity might just save millions of lives and the world economy. However, we do hope that the Pfizer vaccine is easily available to people of all socio-economic backgrounds and all countries.