The husband and wife behind covid vaccine that could change the world
The husband and wife behind covid vaccine that could change the world: Couple bonded over love of medical research that has given hope in battle against coronavirus
- Ugur Sahin and Oezlem Tuereci bonded over their love of medical research
- Couple are being hailed as a ‘dream team’ behind world’s hopes for a vaccine
- Boris Johnson promised UK will be at the ‘front of the pack’ for a new vaccine
Physicians Ugur Sahin and Oezlem Tuereci, who bonded over their love of medical research, are the married couple behind the Covid-19 vaccine that could change the world.
Mr Sahin came from humble roots to build two billion-dollar companies but still rides to work on his mountain bike.
Now the ‘modest’ 55-year-old physician turned chief executive of a German biotech firm and his wife Oezlem Tuereci, 53, a fellow board member of BioNTech, are being hailed as the ‘dream team’ behind the world’s hopes for a Covid vaccine.
The global race to find a Covid-19 vaccine took a leap forward today when pharma companies Pfizer and BioNTech claimed their jab is 90 per cent effective.
Boris Johnson promised the UK will be at the ‘front of the pack’ for the new coronavirus vaccine tonight after the massive breakthrough.
Ugur Sahin, pictured above, came from humble roots to build two billion-dollar companies but still rides to work on his mountain bike.
Oezlem Tuereci, 53, is a fellow board member of BioNTech. She is the daughter of a Turkish physician who had migrated to Germany
A vaccine trial volunteer in Turkey receives a dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech jab at the end of October
Born in Turkey, Mr Sahin was raised in Germany, where his parents worked in a Ford factory. Trained as a doctor, Mr Sahin became a professor and researcher focused on immunotherapy.
He worked at teaching hospitals in Cologne and the south western city of Homburg, where he met immunologist Miss Tuereci during his early academic career. Medical research and oncology became a shared passion.
Miss Tuereci, the daughter of a Turkish physician who had migrated to Germany, once said in an interview that even on the day of their wedding, both made time for lab work.
Together they honed in on the immune system as a potential ally in the fight against cancer and tried to address the unique genetic makeup of each tumour.
Life as entrepreneurs started in 2001 when they set up Ganymed Pharmaceuticals to develop cancer-fighting antibodies, but Mr Sahin – by then a professor at Mainz university – never gave up academic research and teaching. Ganynmed was sold to Japan’s Astellas in 2016 for $1.4 (£1.06) billion.
Mr Sahin and Miss Tuereci co-founded BioNTech in 2008, with the aim of pursuing a much broader range of cancer immunotherapy tools. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $55 (£41.8) million in the company, which also works on HIV and tuberculosis programmes.
Colleagues describe Mr Sahin as a calm and measured man who avoids checking the company’s share price and is more interested in reading scientific journals.
Trained as a doctor, Mr Sahin became a professor and researcher focused on immunotherapy
Pfizer and BioNTech have produced one of the world’s leading candidates for a coronavirus vaccine, and have become the first to report early results from their final study
He and his wife now figure among the 100 richest Germans, according to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
But Matthias Kromayer, a board member of venture capital firm MIG AG, whose funds have backed BioNTech, said: ‘Despite his achievements, he never changed from being incredibly humble and personable.’
He added Mr Sahin would typically walk into business meetings wearing jeans and carrying his signature bicycle helmet and backpack with him.
Matthias Theobald, a fellow oncology professor at Mainz university who has worked with Mr Sahin for 20 years, said: ‘He is a very modest person. Appearances mean little to him. But he wants to create the structures that allow him to realise his visions and that’s where his aspirations are far from modest.’
Mr Sahin and his wife now figure among the 100 richest Germans, according to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag
The PM tonight tried to cool hopes of an early end to lockdown after Pfizer and BioNTech revealed that early results from a massive clinical trial suggest nine out of 10 people who get their jab are protected by it.
The UK could get 10million doses of coronavirus vaccine by Christmas, with expert raising expectations that the life could be ‘back to normal’ by the Spring.
The FTSE 100 index is on track for its best day since March, with shares in airlines and hospitality firms spiking globally – although Zoom saw its value plunge.
At a press conference this evening, Boris Johnson said the UK was ‘towards the front of the pack’ to get the critical jabs.
However, he warned that the biggest mistake the country could make now was to ‘slacken our resolve’. ‘Now it is more important than ever to follow the rules,’ he said.
Mr Johnson referred to his previous comments about the ‘distant bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill’ to salvage the situation.
‘I can tell you that tonight that toot of the bugle is louder, but it’s still some way off, we absolutely cannot rely on this news as a solution,’ he said.
‘The biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at a critical moment.’
He added: ‘There’s a long way I am afraid before we have got this thing beaten.’
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam voiced excitement about the Pfizer announcement, saying it boded well for other trial vaccines as they used the same broad approach.
But he also cautioned that ‘one swallow’ did not make a summer and there could not be an easing of social distancing measures yet.
Boris Johnson (pictured at a press conference tonight) updated the public on the optimistic news, but warned that the country cannot ‘slacken’ the drive to combat the virus
MailOnline understands safety and efficacy data from Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is on track to be published next week, meaning the actual approval process for the jab could begin weeks ahead of Pfizer – offering Britain a second shot of getting a jab before Christmas.
Pfizer’s chairman hailed the breakthrough a ‘great day for science and humanity’ while independent experts said the results were ‘excellent’ and ‘really impressive’.
However, in America controversy is brewing over the timing of the announcement, with supporters of Donald Trump raising suspicions that it was held back until after the knife-edge election – something the company denies. The firm had originally said it expected to know the results of its trial in October.
Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to apply for approval to give out the jab in the US as soon as possible, but they must wait for long-term safety data to be completed. There are also concerns about the logistical challenges of distributing huge numbers of doses, which must be stored at around minus 70 degrees centigrade.
The vaccine is one of at least seven that have already been pre-ordered by the UK. The jab has to be given in two installments so in theory the 10million due in the UK before Christmas mean five million people could receive it.
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