The Covid-19 pandemic has been a devastating experience for the world, as human lives were lost on a scale not seen in a long time. Economic activities ground to a halt and millions lost their jobs.
However, just like every other thing in life, while some entrepreneurs were reeling in losses and laying off workers, some entrepreneurs were making big money off the global pandemic.
Turkish couple behind $21bn BioNtech Company
Meet Dr. Ugir Sahin and Dr.Ozlem Türeci, the Turkish couple that partnered with Pfizer to produce the BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine, and has gone on to become one of the richest couples in Germany, their resident country.
Both scientists are children of Turkish immigrants who moved to Germany in the 1960s. According to the NY Times, Dr. Ugir Sahin grew up wanting to be a doctor and became a physician at the University of Cologne. In 1993, he earned a doctorate from the university for his work on immunotherapy in tumour cells.
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On the other hand, his wife, Dr. Ozlem Türeci, initially wanted to be a nun but ended up studying Medicine. She is currently the Chief Medical Officer of BioNtech. She met her husband at the University of Saarland where she was studying.
The couple got married in 2002 and are based in the city of Mainz, Germany.
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First company sold For €1.4bn
The couple founded their first company, Ganymed, in 2001. Dr. Ugir, speaking to Süddeutsche Zeitung a top German daily, explained that the name “Ganymed” is a Turkish expression which means “earned from hard work.”
The company developed precision antibody therapies for cancer. They also treated cancer using monoclonal antibodies.
According to the Guardian, Ganymed was sold to a Japanese pharma company, Astellas, for €1.4bn in 2016.
Second company valued at $21.9bn
Dr. Ugir Sahin and Dr. Ozlem Türeci founded their second company, BioNtech, in 2008. The company is currently valued at $21.9bn after its partnership with Pfizer produced a vaccine 90% efficient in curing Covid-19.
The company was co-founded by Christian Huber, an Austrian oncologist. Just like their first company, BioNtech was also focused on innovative ways to treat cancer cells. The goal was to develop immunotherapy cancer treatments, using genetic material called mRNA to train the human body to produce its antigene.
Their extensive study in mRNA came in handy when news of the Covid-19 pandemic broke.
Partnership with Pfizer
BioNtech was Germany’s frontman in the global race for the Covid-19 vaccine, and they delivered excellent work. BioNtech partnered with Pfizer who took care of the development and distribution of a vaccine proven to be 90% effective in curing the coronavirus.
Lifestyle and net worth
Dr. Sahin and Dr. Türeci live with their teenage daughter in a modest apartment near their office. They do not own a car, rather, they ride bicycles to work.
According to Forbes Dr. Sahin’s personal net worth is $4.2bn, owning 17% of BioNtech with a market value of $21bn.
After its successful Covid-19 vaccine developed with Pfizer, BioNtech’s stock has risen 160% since January 2020. It was declared by the U.S. FDA to be 95% effective in preventing Covid-19.
Awards and recognition
Dr. Sahin and Dr. Türeci were named the Financial Times people of the year for achieving a remarkable scientific and business feat.
The BioNtech vaccine was the first vaccine to win approval from two of the world’s most credible regulators.