Behind Pfizer’s Covid Vaccine, A Husband-Wife “Dream Team”

Behind Pfizer’s Covid Vaccine, A Husband-Wife “Dream Team”

Positive data on BioNTech and US partner Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine is an unlikely success for the married couple behind the German biotech firm, who’ve devoted their lives to harnessing the immune system towards most cancers. Pfizer stated on Monday that stated its experimental vaccine was greater than 90% efficient in stopping COVID-19 based on preliminary data from a big study.

Pfizer and BioNTech are the primary drugmakers to show successful data from a large-scale scientific trial of a coronavirus vaccine. The businesses stated they’ve thus far found no serious safety concerns and anticipate to hunt US emergency use authorization later this month.

From humble roots, because the son of a Turkish immigrant working at a Ford manufacturing facility in Cologne, BioNTech Chief Govt Ugur Sahin, 55, now figures among the 100 richest Germans, collectively with his spouse and fellow board member Oezlem Tuereci, 53, in keeping with weekly Welt am Sonntag.

The market worth of Nasdaq-listed BioNTech, which the pair co-founded, had ballooned to $21 billion as of Friday’s shut from $4.6 billion years in the past, with the agency set to play a major position in mass immunization towards the coronavirus.

“Despite his achievements, he never changed from being extremely humble and personable,” stated Matthias Kromayer, board member of enterprise capital agency MIG AG, whose funds have backed BioNTech since its inception in 2008.

He added Sahin would sometimes stroll into enterprise conferences sporting jeans and carrying his signature bicycle helmet and backpack with him.

Doggedly pursuing his childhood dream of finding out drugs and turning into a doctor, Sahin labored at educating hospitals in Cologne and the southwestern metropolis of Homburg, the place he met Tuereci during his early academic career.

Medical research and oncology became a shared passion.

There, the daughter of a Turkish physician who had migrated to Germany stated in a media interview that even on the day of their wedding, each made time for lab work.

Collectively they honed in on the immune system as a possible ally within the fight towards most cancers and tried to handle the distinctive genetic make-up of every tumor.

Life as entrepreneurs began in 2001 when they set up Ganymed Prescribed drugs to develop cancer-fighting antibodies, but Sahin – by then a professor at Mainz college – never gave up academic research and teaching.

They gained funding from MIG AG in addition to from Thomas and Andreas Struengmann, who offered their generic drugs business Hexal to Novartis in 2005.

That venture was offered to Japan’s Astellas in 2016 for as much as $1.Four billion. By then, the staff behind Ganymed was already busy constructing BioNTech, based in 2008, to pursue a much wider range of cancer immunotherapy tools.

That included mRNA, a flexible messenger substance to ship genetic directions into cells.


For MIG’s Kromayer, Tuereci and Sahin are a “dream staff” in that they reconciled their visions with the constraints of actuality.

The BioNTech story took a twist when Sahin in January got here throughout a scientific paper on a brand new coronavirus outbreak within the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan and it struck him how small the step was from anti-cancer mRNA drugs to mRNA-based viral vaccines.

BioNTech shortly assigned about 500 employees to mission “mild pace” to work on a number of potential compounds, profitable pharma big Pfizer, and Chinese drugmaker Fosun as companions in March.

Matthias Theobald, a fellow oncology professor at Mainz college who has labored with Sahin for 20 years, started his tendency in direction of understatement belies a relentless ambition to rework drugs, exemplified by the leap of religion to a COVID-19 vaccine.

“He’s a really modest and humble person. Appearances imply little to him. But he desires to create the structures that permit him to understand his visions and that’s where his aspirations are far from modest,” Theobald stated.

Sahin told Reuters on Monday the read-out amounted to an “extraordinary success price” but that he didn’t know earlier within the year how tough the duty overall would be.

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