COVID-19 vaccine unveiled / The story behind the couple of Turkish-German scientists
When German biotechnology company BioNTech chose to set up its headquarters on Goldmine Street in the western city of Mainz, the couple could not have predicted how prophetic this address would be.
The company's shares rose 23.4% on Monday morning after the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with US pharmacy giant Pfizer became the first candidate worldwide to show positive results in phase 3 tests, the crucial phase and last test.
The total value of BioNTech shares is currently $ 21.9 billion, four times that of German national carrier Lufthansa and a triumph for a company that made its debut in the US stock market just a year ago.
Hopes rise for the end of the pandemic as Pfizer says the vaccine is 90% effective.
Founded in 2008 by scientists Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin and Austrian oncologist Christoph Huber, the company initially set out to develop new types of cancer immunotherapy by modifying patients' T cells to target cancer-specific antigens.
When news of the coronavirus first surfaced earlier this year, BioNTech, which employs 1,300 people, was quick to reallocate its resources. Sahin, the company's CEO, when he read about the Covid-19 explosion in Wuhan in January, told his wife that "schools here should be closed in April."
Germany entered its first blockade in March, earlier than Sahin had predicted.
Pfizer, which has partnered with BioNTech on influenza vaccines since 2018, paid $ 185 million in advance to develop the coronavirus vaccine. The company will release another $ 563 million when development is complete. Their vaccine is a pioneer of a completely new technology that involves injecting a portion of the virus' genetic code in order to boost the immune system. Türeci and Sahin are the children of two Turkish immigrants who came to Germany in the late 1960s. Sahin was born in southern Turkey but moved to Cologne when he was four years old. Türeci, the company's chief medical officer, was born in Lower Saxony. The couple, who have German citizenship and have a teenage daughter, met at Saarland University in Hamburg and have been married since 2002. In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Türeci said she and her husband started their wedding day with lab coat and continued their research after a short run at the registry office until the invention of the Covid-19 vaccine.