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Turkish couple develops world's first effective coronavirus vaccine

Turkish couple develops world's first effective coronavirus vaccine

Both Dr. Ugur Sahin and his wife, Dr. Ozlem Tureci, were born to immigrant parents from Turkey who moved to Germany in the 1960s.
12.11.2020 - 11:18

The development of the world's first effective coronavirus vaccine candidate has turned the world’s attention to two Turkish-German scientists who achieved the breakthrough.

"THIS IS A VICTORY FOR INNOVATION, SCIENCE AND A GLOBAL COLLABORATIVE EFFORT"

The pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which Dr. Ugur Sahin and his wife, Dr. Ozlem Tureci, founded in 2008, managed to develop an experimental vaccine together with its American partner Pfizer which was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing coronavirus.

On Monday, Sahin, who is BioNTech’s CEO, announced positive results from the Phase 3 trials and expressed hope that their efforts would help bring an end to the global health crisis.

“The first interim analysis of our global Phase 3 study provides evidence that a vaccine may effectively prevent coronavirus. This is a victory for innovation, science and a global collaborative effort,” he said.

The success of Sahin and Tureci, renowned scientists in the field of oncology and immunology in Germany, made headlines after the announcement both in local and international media outlets. “The German couple behind the vaccine are an immigrant success story,” British daily The Telegraph reported, highlighting that both scientists were from Germany’s three-million-strong Turkish community.

The German daily Der Tagesspiegel used the headline “How children of immigrants became multi-billionaires: The couple behind the corona-vaccine” while reporting their achievements and described this as an example of successful integration.

Sahin, who was born in İskenderun, Turkey, in 1965, arrived in Germany as a 4-year-old, where his father worked in a car factory. He studied medicine at the University of Cologne and worked several years at Saarland University Medical Center.

Tureci is the daughter of a Turkish physician who emigrated to Germany from Istanbul. She studied medicine at the Saarland University Faculty of Medicine and become a pioneer in cancer immunotherapy in Germany. The couple founded BioNTech in order to develop technologies for individualized cancer immunotherapies.

Soon after the emergence of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, Sahin and Tureci decided to use their know-how in messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to induce immunity and prevent coronavirus infections in an effort they called Project Lightspeed.