Meet the Husband and Wife Behind Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine

A match made in heaven? You bet.

Pfizer and BioNTech are the first companies to show successful data from a large-scale clinical trial for coronavirus vaccine. Since the companies say that they did not find any serious safety concerns they now seek emergency use authorization in the United States later this month. But did you know this vaccine was developed by a husband and wife team?

The couple behind Pfizer and BioNTech’s successful COVID-19 vaccine shows us how marriage can become a successful partnership if the people work on it. These two have smashed the notion that one partner must give up their sense of self for the other to be successful.

This husband-wife team actually spent years researching how to harness the immune system against cancer. While they haven’t cure cancer (yet), they did manage to make a successful COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the German biotech firm, BioNTech’s American pharmaceutical partner, Pfizer, the couple’s experimental vaccine was over 90% effective in preventing COVID-19. The statement said this is just based on initial data from a large study.


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About The Couple

People want to know. Who is this German couple taking on the world together?

BioNTech Chief Executive, Ugur Sahin is the son of a Turkish immigrant working at a Ford factory in Cologne. His wife, Oezlem Tuereci, was the daughter of a Turkish physician who had migrated to Germany.

The couple co-founded BioNTech, which is now valued at $21 billion. They have a lead in the COVID-19 vaccine market. According to weekly Welt am Sonntag, they are currently among the 100 richest Germans.

COVID-19 vaccine
BioNtech founders Ozlem and Ugur with their CFO/COO (left) and CCO(right)

Despite striking gold with their firm, the couple is pretty down to earth according to Matthias Kromayer. Kromayer is a board member of venture capital firm MIG AG, that has been financially backing BioNTech since its inception in 2008.

“Despite his achievements, he never changed from being incredibly humble and personable,”

How did they meet?

Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tuereci met at work. Ozlem met Ugur when he worked at teaching hospitals in Cologne and Hamburg. Looks like oncology and medical research brought these two together.

By 2001, they set up Ganymed Pharmaceuticals to develop cancer-fighting antibodies. The drug business Hexal was sold to Novartis in 2005.

Soon they were setting up BioNTech to pursue a broader range of cancer immunotherapy tools. With the Coronavirus pandemic, Ugur realized how small the step from anti-cancer mRNA drugs to mRNA-based viral vaccines is.

They teamed up with Pfizer and Chinese drugmaker Fosun and worked on several possible compounds. Now they’ve successfully tested a vaccine in large trials.

The world awaits the mass production of these miracle vaccines.

Written by Ummara Sheraz

Entertainment & culture writer at ProPakistani/Lens. Occasionally dabbles in other news.


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