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NEWS The glamorous story of BioNTech and its owners Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci

12 Jan 2021

The German biotech company BioNTech was founded by its CEO Ugur SAHIN, Chief Medical Officer Özlem TURECI and Austrian oncologist Christoph Huber in 2008. Families of Şahin and Türeci had migrated from Turkey to Germany, a while ago.

When they chose a street called “An der Goldgrube” (meaning next to the Gold Mine in English) for the headquarters of their company in the western city of Mainz, the couple could not anticipate how meaningful this address would be in the close future. The shares of their company sky rocketed after they had obtained positive results for the first time in the world, based on the 3rd and last stage of the Covid-19 vaccine they developed together with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

When their company was first founded, they focused on the immune system as a potential ally in the fight against cancer and sought to address the unique genetic makeup of each tumor. They were able to modify T cells of patients to target cancer-specific antigens by developing new types of immunotherapy against the disease.

Meanwhile, Sahin and Türeci also kept working on mRNA technology for more than 25 years. As other doctors working at BioNTech prepared to go on vacation to ski, Turkish doctors Sahin and Türeci quickly convened the board of directors to decapitate the firm's cancer research and focus all their work on coronavirus.

“This is what we wanted to achieve 10 months ago when we went on a journey to find the vaccine in question. Especially today, when we are all in the middle of a second wave of the epidemic and many of us are subject to restrictions, we understand more and more how important this milestone is on the road to ending this epidemic and restoring a sense of normality for all of us” says SAHIN, the CEO of the company.

Shares of BioNTech have risen by more than 250 per cent this year to around US$ 30bn. The total value of BioNTech shares is now roughly calculated at $ 21.9 billion, more than four times that of German national airline Lufthansa. It is a victory for the company which made its debut on the US stock market last year. Prof. Dr. SAHIN has now become the “richest Turk in the world” with a fortune of US$ 5.12 billion and entered Bloomberg's list of the 500 richest people.

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