Ozlem Tü reci 

Ozlem Türeci, a German physician of Turkish origin, scientist, and entrepreneur, was born on March 6, 1967. She co-founded BioNTech, a biotechnology company that created the first messenger RNA-based vaccine authorized for use against COVID-19 in 2020. Since 2018, Türeci has worked as BioNTech’s chief medical officer. She previously co-founded Ganymed Pharmaceuticals in 2001 and served as its CEO until  Astellas Pharma purchased the company in 2016. Türeci formerly worked mostly in the fields of research  and education. She is also a Privatdozentin at Mainz’s Johannes Gutenberg University. Türeci and her husband, Uğur Şahin, received numerous accolades, and in 2020, Türeci made history by being the first Turkish German among Germany’s top 100 wealthiest persons. 

Özlem Türeci Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of BioNTech

Özlem Türeci Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of BioNTech

Personal Life and Education of Ozlem Tü reci

Türeci was born in 1967 in Lastrup, West Germany, to Turkish immigrants. Her mother was a scientist  who worked in the field of biology. Her father, an Istanbul-born surgeon, worked at the Catholic hospital  St. Elisabeth-Stift in Lastrup in the Cloppenburg area. She went to the Städtisches Gymnasium in Bad Driburg and the Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium in Bad Harzburg, among other places. The nuns who labored to help people at the hospital where her father worked inspired her as a child. 

She earned her Ph.D. from the Medical Faculty of Saarland in 1992 after studying medicine at Saarland University in Homburg. She was a German Research Foundation Heisenberg fellow. Her research centered on the discovery and characterization of tumor-specific chemicals and the development of  cancer immunotherapies. She completed her habilitation qualification in molecular medicine at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz in 2002.

Türeci met her future husband, Uğur Şahin, while finishing her final year at Saarland University Hospital in Homburg. They realized that they both were interested in harnessing the immune system to combat cancer. In 2002, the pair married and four years later welcomed a daughter. Although Türeci and her husband have become billionaires due to their business ventures, the family maintains a humble lifestyle. 

özlem türeci and her husband Uğur Şahin

özlem türeci and her husband Uğur Şahin

Thanks to SPD’s Rhineland-Palatinate parliamentary group proposal, she will be a member of the 17th  Federal Assembly for the German presidential election in 2022. 

Ozlem Tü reci ‘s Career 

Medicine Mainz University 

Türeci worked in the University Medical Center Mainz [de]. She’s been a private speaker on cancer immunotherapy there since 2002. She devised the concept of a “translational institute” with her  husband and mentor, immunologist Christoph Huber. They realized it in 2001 when they founded TRON, short for “translational oncology”. A biopharmaceutical research institute is dedicated to developing new diagnostics and medications to treat cancer and other diseases with significant unmet medical needs. Türeci and her spouse started two firms due to their research at Mainz University. 

Ganymed Pharmaceuticals  

Ganymed Pharmaceuticals was founded by Türeci and her future husband in 2001. This business  produced zolbetuximab, which is used to treat esophageal and gastric cancer, as part of a new class of cancer treatments known as ideal monoclonal antibodies. She served as the company’s chief scientific officer from 2001 to 2008 and its chief executive officer from 2008 to 2016. Astellas Pharma purchased the company in 2016 for $1.4 billion and is now a subsidiary of that firm.

BioNTech’s Headquarters are in Mainz

BioNTech's Headquarters - Mainz, Germany.

BioNTech’s Headquarters – Mainz, Germany.

Türeci, her husband, and Christoph Huber formed BioNTech, a biotechnology firm based in Mainz, in  2008. The name BioNTech comes from Biopharmaceutical New Technologies. Since 2018, Türeci has served as the company’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO). She is largely responsible for Clinical Research and development as CMO. She was the chair of the company’s scientific advisory board from 2009 until 2018. Initially, the company concentrated on researching and manufacturing active immunotherapies based on Messenger RNA (mRNA) and other technologies to treat cancer and other serious diseases using a patient-specific approach. They employed Katalin Karikó, who had found a mechanism to prevent provoking an inflammatory reaction when injecting an mRNA medication, together with TRON researchers. 

Project Lightspeed-Development of Covid-19 Vaccine 

Türeci and Uğur Şahin during the University of Cologne Faculty of Medicine’s 2021 honorary doctorate ceremony Türeci’s spouse read an article about a novel coronavirus ultimately designated COVID-19 in The Lancet medical journal in January 2020. They were concerned that a pandemic, the pair decided to use the mRNA vaccine technology they had been investigating for two decades to build a vaccine for the  disease, which was spreading in China at the time. 

Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Ozlem Tureci, The scientists who developed the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Ozlem Tureci, the scientists who developed the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

They persuaded Pfizer, an American pharmaceutical corporation with whom they had previously  collaborated on an influenza vaccine, to contribute to development and distribution costs. Five vaccine candidates were ready to test by March 2020. Data showed that the vaccination was more than 90% effective by November 2020. The vaccine was ready for use in the United Kingdom and the United States the following month, and a hospital in Coventry injected the first patient. BioNTech planned to create 2 billion doses of its vaccine by the end of 2021 as of February 2021.

Türeci was in charge of clinical studies for the BNT162b2 vaccination (the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID19  vaccine, commercialized under the brand name Comirnaty) throughout its development. Pfizer and the Chinese firm Fosun Pharma, among others, contributed to the project’s speedy success, according to Türeci. BioNTech employs people from 60 different nations. 

Türeci and her husband were selected Financial Times People of the Year for 2020 for their ability to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine less than a year after the virus’s genetic sequence was disclosed, an accomplishment described as “one of our time’s greatest medical discoveries.” In January  2021, they were also featured on the cover of the American news magazine Time. 

Source : TIME

Source : TIME

Initiatives Currently Underway 

BioNTech intends to pursue its initial goal of developing an mRNA-based cancer vaccine with finances  from the successful vaccine; Türeci stated in March 2021 that the business had three vaccines ready to  go to patients within two years. In an ideal world, they will create personalized treatments for each  patient. They’ve treated over 440 people with 17 different types of tumours so far. 

BioNTech is also developing an mRNA vaccine to fight malaria and looking into vaccine production in Africa. 

Türeci has filed over 80 international patent applications and has over 110 peer-reviewed scientific  journal articles. She is a lecturer who travels the world. 

Associations of Businesses 

Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT), the largest European association for cancer immunotherapy: president since 2019. German Top Research Cluster for Individualized Immune Intervention (Ci3) of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research: co-founder and head since 2011. 

ASCO, AACR, German Society of Immunology, and German Society of Hematology and Oncology are  members of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), German Society of Immunology, and German Society of Hematology and Oncology. 

Ozlem Tü reci was nominated by the Social Democratic Party as a delegate to the Federal Convention to elect the President of Germany in 2022.


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