Meet the Turkish-German power couple behind the COVID-19 vaccine
Turkish-German power couple Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci who discovered the cure for COVID-19. The couple who have dedicated their lives to the field of oncology and infectious diseases discovered the prevention vaccine in their Germany based laboratory.
The Covid-19 Vaccine with the claim of 90% effectiveness was discovered in BioNTech, a laboratory set up by the couple in the central German city of Mainz in 2008 and in conjunction with the company’s partner, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Sahin, 55, and Tureci, 53 said they used the never-before-approved technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to spark an immune response in people who are vaccinated.
“I think the good message for mankind is that we now understand that COVID-19 infections can be indeed prevented by a vaccine,” Sahin said.
Speaking to CNN on Monday, Pfizer CEO’s Albert Bourla called it “the greatest medical advance” in the last 100 years.
The pair, both trained physicians, established their previous company, Ganymed Pharmaceuticals, in 2001 to work on developing cancer-fighting antibodies, eventually selling it for $1.4 billion in 2016.
The husband, Sahin, is the company’s Chief Executive and his wife, Tureci, the Chief Medical Officer. They are listed among Germany’s 100 richest people, according to the weekly Welt am Sonntag newspaper. On Tuesday, the market value of their Nasdaq-listed company jumped to $25.72 billion from a $4.6 billion last year.
The charitable deeds and commitment to academia and science looked to have been the reason for their ground but their work on the Covid-19 vaccine has propeled them into the global spotlight.
Sahin was born in Iskenderun, a city on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. He moved to Cologne, Germany when he was four, where his father worked at a local Ford factory. He studied medicine at the University of Cologne, graduating in 1990, and obtained a Ph.D. from the same university in 1993. Following an eight-year residency at the Saarland University Hospital, he joined the University of Mainz faculty in 2000 and achieved the professorship in 2008.
He met Tureci, the daughter of a Turkish physician, when the pair were both embarking on their academic careers.