At the weekend, Die Welt am Sonntag published a list of the richest people in Germany. In 93rd place: Medicine professor Ugur Sahin and his wife Özlem Türeci. Your wealth has risen from € 650 million to € 2.4 billion in a year – it has almost quadrupled in such a short time. But who are Sahin and Türeci, and how do they earn their money?
Sahin’s family came to Germany from Turkey when he was four years old. The father worked as a guest worker at Ford. Sahin first studied medicine in Cologne, later he worked in internal medicine and hematology / oncology at the Cologne University Hospital. He wrote his doctoral thesis on immunotherapy for tumor cells. Since then, his focus has been on cancer research and immunology. Sahin has been Professor of Experimental Oncology at III. Medical Clinic of the University of Mainz.
Özlem Türeci also has Turkish roots: her father, a doctor, came to Germany from Istanbul to work in a hospital here. Like him, Türeci studied medicine and became a doctor. “Heise” reports that she and Sahin met each other in the early 1990s on the cancer ward of the hospital in Homburg an der Saar.
Both were fascinated by the idea of being able to treat cancer in a way other than surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. They wanted to get the immune system to attack the cancer cells itself – and they succeeded. Together they founded Ganymed Pharmaceuticals in 2001: the biopharmaceutical company specialized in antibody drugs against tumors.
15 years later, the couple sold Ganymed Pharmaceuticals to a Japanese pharmaceutical company – for about 422 million euros. However, the topic remained with them: Even today, private lecturer Özlem Türeci is considered a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy and is the head of the German leading cluster for individualized immune intervention Ci3.
Corona vaccine could come from Sahins and Türeci’s company
But this company is not the only one that the couple founded. In 2008 they set up another company, Biontech, that researches medical active ingredients – and is currently one of the hopes for the development of a corona vaccine.
Together with its US partner Pfizer, the company intends to apply for marketing authorization in October if the current clinical trial is successful. Both companies started a worldwide test of the possible vaccine with 29,000 test subjects at the end of July.
According to the “Wirtschaftswoche”, Biontech assumes that it will be able to deliver a vaccine this year. The Mainz-based biotech company plans to have up to 100 million cans available by the end of the year.
So it’s no wonder that Sahin and Türeci are among the most successful Germans. The couple doesn’t seem to care about the money. Investor Thomas Strüngmann said in an interview with Handelsblatt: “Sahin never put monetization in the foreground”. His dream is “to build something sustainable and permanent and to develop fundamentally new, better therapies.”