On March 19, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier presented the two scientists Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin with the Grand Cross of Merit with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel also attended the ceremony in Bellevue Palace. The two researchers are founders of the biotech company and vaccine manufacturer BioNTech from Mainz. They were honored with the award for their services in the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek explains:
“Today's award honors two outstanding researchers. Entrepreneurial researchers like the Türeci/Şahin couple are taking matters into their own hands. They take responsibility because they believe in themselves and in their research success. This spirit is the engine of our progress and therefore worth its weight in gold for Germany as a country of innovation. I warmly congratulate Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin on receiving the Grand Cross of Merit with Star.
Together with the researchers at BioNTech, you both were able to develop the first vaccine against COVID-19 approved in the European Union in a very short time. The basis for this extraordinary achievement was their great knowledge of mRNA technology, which both scientists have gained through their previous research work in this area. Her commitment and her tireless thirst for research, which led her to this success, were also decisive.
With their courage and energy, the Türeci/Şahin couple is a great role model, especially for young researchers - as researchers, but also as entrepreneurs. Thanks to their success in vaccine development, they became known around the world almost overnight. Özlem Türeci and Ugur Şahin are a figurehead for Germany as an excellent research location.
I am pleased that, as Federal Research Minister, I was able to support the Türeci/Şahin couple in the development of the BioNTech vaccine. Through our special program to accelerate vaccine development against COVID-19, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided BioNTech with a total of 375 million euros for the development of its vaccine. And even in the start-up phase, the company was able to benefit from funding from the BMBF as early as 2008.”
Prof. Dr. Ugur Şahin is CEO of the Mainz-based company BioNTECH SE. His wife dr. Özlem Türeci is Medical Director at BioNTech. BioNTech is a biotechnology company focused on the development and manufacture of active immunotherapies for a patient-specific approach to the treatment of cancer and other serious diseases. In addition to the diverse oncology pipeline, BioNTech, together with partner companies, is developing various mRNA vaccine candidates for a range of infectious diseases. The COVID-19 vaccine COMIRNATY® (known as BNT162b2), which BioNTech developed together with the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer, received conditional marketing authorization for the European Union on December 21, 2020 from the European Commission.
To accelerate the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the BMBF has launched a special program with a total of up to 750 million euros for the years 2020 to 2021. As part of this special program, a total of 375 million euros will be made available for BioNTech's vaccine development.
In the course of the last few years, the company BioNTech has been funded by the BMBF several times. With two grants as part of the biotechnology start-up campaign (GO-Bio), with which the BMBF supports research teams in the life sciences willing to start a business, the BMBF made a significant contribution to the start-up phase of BioNTech from 2007 to 2013 with a total of 4,1 million euros. The aim of the GO-Bio project was to develop optimized RNA vaccines for the immunotherapy of cancer. BioNTech received further funding as part of a group of companies through the "Ci3 cluster for individualized immune intervention" cluster, which was funded from 2012 to 2017 as the winner of the BMBF's top cluster competition. The company also benefited from further project funding from the BMBF.
Source: Press release from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research from March 19.03.2021, XNUMX