The married couple behind the Covid-19 vaccine

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • As news broke that a vaccine could be rolled out by Christmas - Emma Mason looks at the hard-working couple in lab suits we need to thank

    It’s fair to say we’ve had better years, but with Biden and Harris taking over the White House next January and news that a life-changing new vaccine could be transforming the world by this December, we think 2020 is turning a corner. And this time we have another perfect pair giving us hope – married couple, Ugur Sahin, 55, and Oezlem Tuercei, 53, are the names to put on the global Thank You list.

    The devoted pair, who met at a teaching hospital in Germany, bonded over their mutual passion for medical research and oncology. Not only hooked on each other, they’re so passionate about their work that, according to Tuercei, she said they even spent part of their wedding day in the lab.

    Their joint entrepreneurship began in 2001 when they created Ganymed Pharmaceuticals to harness cancer-fighting antibodies, which was later sold to a Japanese company in 2016. Sahin and Tuercei then co-founded BioNTech in 2008, to research broader ways in which the immune system could be harnessed to fight cancer. However, this January their interest turned to tackling Covid-19, after Sahin read a scientific paper detailing the devastating effects coronavirus was having in Wuhan, China.

    Getty Images

    They partnered up with Pfizer in March and began trialling and researching potential Covid-19 vaccines. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

    But don’t imagine this groundbreaking scientific success will go to their heads. It appears despite creating a new vaccine and founding not one but two profitable companies (the couple are on the list of the 100 richest Germans), colleagues say the billionaire couple are very much down to earth. Matthias Theobald, a fellow oncology professor at Mainz University who has worked with Mr Sahin for 20 years, said: “He is a very modest and humble person.”

    Well, they may be an unassuming couple who have everything, but we reckon the world needs to get something nice for this dream team.

    Reading now

    Popular Life stories