Husband and wife Ugur Sahin and Oezlem Tuereci are being hailed as the ‘dream team’ couple behind Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine that could help the world combat coronavirus pandemic.
Pfizer-BionTech’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in the first interim efficacy analysis
The phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine began on July 27 and has enrolled 43,538 participants to date
The DMC has not reported any serious safety concerns and recommends that the study continue to collect additional safety and efficacy data as planned.
US multinational pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and its partner German drug company BionTech announced that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 per cent in preventing an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, based on initial data from the phase 3 clinical trials. The news has raised the hopes that the world might soon have a safe and effective jab against the dreaded virus. But did you know that husband and wife Ugur Sahin and Oezlem Tuereci are the couple behind the jab that could help the world combat the coronavirus pandemic?
The physician couple, who are being hailed as a ‘dream team’ behind the world’s hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine, co-founded Mainz-based BioNTech along with Austrian cancer expert Christoph Huber in 2008. Interestingly, the firm has never delivered a vaccine to the market before. However, the company’s experimental technology has now put at the forefront of the global race to produce a vaccine against COVID-19, which has so far killed at least 1,255,803 people worldwide.
‘Dream team’ couple behind Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine
Both scientists and the children of Turkish immigrants to Germany, Sahin and Tuereci are being hailed as the ‘dream team’ couple behind the vaccine that could change the world. The married couple, who bonded over their love of medical research, along with its employees (roughly 1,500) focused on developing specialised immunotherapies to treat cancer based on ‘messenger RNA’ (mRNA) molecules that trigger the building of proteins in cells, to stimulate the immune system. Tuereci, 53, a fellow board member of BionTech and the daughter of a Turkish physician who had migrated to Germany, once said in an interview that the couple made time for lab work even on the day of their wedding.
As COVID-19 began to spread and in January, Sahin, the 55-year-old physician turned chief executive of the German firm, jumped into action and assigned about 500 staff to project light speed to work on several possible compounds. By March, where much of the planet was in lockdown, Sahin told Der Spiegel weekly that BioNTech had developed 20 vaccine candidates based on mRNA technology, which were eventually trimmed down to a handful of the most promising options – with BNT162b2 vaccine now becoming the frontrunner.
Apart from Pfizer, BionTech also announced in March that it was teaming up with Chinese firm Fosun Group for the development and commercialisation of its COVID-19 vaccine in China. Under the deal, Fosun Pharma will commercialise the BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccine in China upon regulatory approval, while BioNTech retains the rights to develop and commercialise the jab in the rest of the world.
Global rollout of Pfizer-BionTech’s COVID-19 vaccine
As of November 8, 2020, about 38,955 participants (of the total 43,538 people enrolled in the phase 3 clinical trial) have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate, BNT162b2. The phase 3 clinical trial of the mRNA-based vaccine began on July 27. As per the first interim efficacy analysis conducted by an external, independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) from the phase 3 clinical trial, the vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The mRNA-based vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, if approved, would require two shots to be effective against coronavirus. The phase 3 clinical trial of BNT162b2 began on July 27 and has enrolled 43,538 participants to date, 38,955 of whom have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as of November 8, 2020.
Based on current projections, Pfizer and BionTech expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. The companies said they are working to prepare the necessary safety and manufacturing data to submit to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to demonstrate the safety and quality of the vaccine product produced, along with the efficacy data generated from the clinical trials. The firms plan to submit data from the full phase 3 trial for scientific peer-review publication.
“As the study continues, the final vaccine efficacy percentage may vary. The DMC has not reported any serious safety concerns and recommends that the study continue to collect additional safety and efficacy data as planned. The data will be discussed with regulatory authorities worldwide,” the companies said in a press release.
Pfizer and BionTech said submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the FDA planned for soon after the required safety milestone is achieved, which is currently expected to occur in the third week of November.