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Meet The Billionaire Couple Behind Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 Vaccine

The Moderna vaccine may have some funding from Dolly Parton, but the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine also has a fascinating history. The German firm that paired up with Pfizer to develop the Covid-19 vaccine is run by a scientist and an immunologist who happen to be a billionaire married couple!

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The Moderna vaccine may have some funding from Dolly Parton, but the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine also has a fascinating history. The immunologist and scientist who happen to be a millionaire married couple manage the German company that has teamed up with Pfizer to produce the Covid-19 vaccine! When Pfizer disclosed that its Covid-19 vaccine was up to 90% effective last week, stocks jumped. The vaccine that Ugur Sahin, the 55-year-old CEO of BioNTech, and his immunologist wife Ozelem Tureci created is expected to “bang the virus over the head” and put an end to the epidemic. Why is he so self-assured? He has spent years working with the RNA technology used in the Covid-19 vaccine, along with his wife.

After reading an article that convinced Sahin that the coronavirus, which was rapidly growing in China, will eventually cause a full-blown global pandemic, BioNTech started developing the vaccine in January. The researchers at the Mainz, Germany-based business started working on Project Lightspeed. As Pfizer was already collaborating with Sahin’s firm on a flu vaccine, BioNTech knew that it would require a larger organization to assist it quickly test its vaccine.

Turkey is where Sahin was born. At age 4, his family relocated to Cologne, Germany. His parents had jobs at a Ford assembly line. He attended the University of Cologne to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. In 1993, he got his Ph.D. for his work on immunotherapy in tumor cells. Early in their professions, he met Dr. Tureci. She grew up wanting to be a nun but chose to study medicine instead. She is the chief medical officer of BioNTech now and 53 years old. She is German by birth. Her father was an Istanbul-based Turkish physician. After the ceremony on the day of Sahin and Tureci’s wedding, they returned to the lab and got to work. In 2001, they established Ganymed Pharmaceuticals. The duo created cancer-fighting medications. Several years later, they also founded BioNTech to explore a wider range of technologies, including messenger RNA, to treat cancer.

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Ganymed was sold by Sahin and Tureci in 2016 for $1.4 billion. BioNTech went public in 2019. The company’s market capitalization has surpassed $21 billion in recent months. Sahin and Tureci are now two of Germany’s wealthiest individuals as a result. The company has raised hundreds of millions and has more than 1,800 people on staff in offices in Berlin, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and other cities in Germany. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave $55 million to BioNTech in 2019 to support the company’s HIV and tuberculosis therapies. Sahin received the Mustafa Prize in the same year, which is given to an Iranian Muslim in science and technology every two years.

Sahin gave an interview recently in which he said he is confident the vaccine will work because it attacks the virus on several levels. “The COVID-19 vaccine prevents it from infecting our cells. But even if the virus manages to find a way in, then the T-cells bash it over the head and eliminate it. To master these two protective techniques, the immune system has undergone extensive training. The virus cannot protect itself against these systems, as we now understand “said he.

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