BioNTech, founded by a German-Turkish researcher couple and which was one of the first companies to launch a coronavirus vaccine on the market, has been awarded the special prize of the German Founder’s Prize 2021.
“With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world changed for all of us. Together with their team, Dr Özlem Türeci and Professor Dr Uğur Şahin have done the world a great service by developing the first mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine in just one year. In doing so, the co-founders of the Mainz-based company BioNTech made a significant contribution to containing the COVID-19 pandemic,” the organisers of the award said in a press statement.
“With their work, they showed in an impressive way what science and innovation can achieve and set a sign of hope in stormy times. For this, they and the team will be awarded the special prize of the German Founder’s Prize 2021.”
“What they achieved in less than a year, together with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, is now history: they created an effective and well-tolerated COVID-19 vaccine and made it available to people worldwide. The vaccine was the first mRNA-based vaccine ever approved for the market, marking the birth of a new class of drugs,” the press statement said.
The German Founder’s Prize is awarded annually to companies “that have successfully mastered special entrepreneurial challenges in an unusual way”.
Ugur Sahin and his wife Özlem Türeci, who are both medical doctors, call the search for a coronavirus vaccine a “humanity project”. In the meantime, about 1.4 billion doses of the BioNTech vaccine have already been delivered to more than 100 countries.
The company is not resting on its oars yet as it wants to accelerate its research programme into other diseases. For example, the company wants to take on malaria which, according to the WHO, killed 400,000 people in 2019. BioNTech also wants to build up production capacities in Africa in particular and thus make an important contribution to better health care on the continent.