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FT People of the Year are BioNTech’s co-founders

Posted December. 18, 2020 07:39,   

Updated December. 18, 2020 07:39


Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin, co-founders of German biotechnology company BioNTech that developed a COVID-19 vaccine with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer, have been selected as “Financial Times (FT) People of the Year.”

The FT explained on Thursday that the couple developed a vaccine in less than a year, enabling a safe and effective inoculation.

The vaccine they developed in collaboration with Pfizer is being administered in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. “We were nervous,” said Dr. Sahin. “It is different when people are vaccinated for the first time outside a trial, in the real world setting.”

Tureci and Sahin, both medical graduates from Turkish immigrant families, met at a research center. Being notoriously hard-working, they got married at a lab in lab coats. Even after they developed the vaccine, they have been so swamped with work that they missed the TV footage of 90-year-old Margaret Keenan being vaccinated in the United Kingdom on December 8.

BioNTech’s main area of research had been cancer immunotherapy before the couple quickly switched their focus to COVID-19 vaccine development as the virus was spreading quickly across the world. They began their research even before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. “He has a very high hit rate when it comes to predicting outcomes,” Tureci said of her husband, admitting that this trait of his was initially “annoying.”

Se-Hyung Lee turtle@donga.com