Pivot! In this episode of HARMAN’s interview series “The Next Wave,” Young Sohn talks with BioNTech co-founder and CEO Dr. Uğur Şahin about their work with Pfizer on the COVID-19 vaccine, the importance in being able to pivot as a technology company, the company’s work on cancer vaccines and how that previous work helped expedite the speed to market of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Prof. Uğur Şahin, M.D., Co-Founder and CEO of BioNTech, is a physician, immunologist and leader in the development of novel approaches to fight cancer and infectious diseases. Şahin is one of the world’s foremost experts on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) medicines and has pioneered several breakthroughs enabling the development of mRNA vaccines and other types of immunotherapies. Şahin initiated and oversees “Project Lightspeed,” the historic development of the first mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, moving from lab and clinical testing to conditional approval within an unprecedented 11-month period. He also leads BioNTech’s research and development of neoantigen specific mRNA cancer vaccines which are individually tailored and produced on demand according to the profile of non-synonymous mutations identified by next-generation sequencing in patients’ tumors.
Uğur Şahin is co-inventor of more than 500 filed patents applications and patents and his academic credentials include serving as a Full Professor (W3) in Translational Oncology & Immunology at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, where he was the supervisor for more than 50 PhD students. He also holds the role of Chairman of the Scientific Management Board of the Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON), also in Mainz. Based on his contributions to scientific discovery, Dr. Şahin has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the German Sustainability Award, the Mustafa Prize, and the German Cancer Award. He is married to Dr. Özlem Türeci, the Chief Medical Officer at BioNTech. Şahin and Türeci co-founded BioNTech as physicians to help bring solutions to patients and improve their lives.