Özlem Türeci

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Özlem Türeci
Ozlem Tureci v1.jpg
Özlem Türeci in 2019
Born (1967-03-06) 6 March 1967 (age 54)
CitizenshipGermany[1]
Alma mater
OccupationPhysician, scientist, entrepreneur
Years active1992–present
Known for
OfficeCMO BioNTech SE
Term2018–present
Spouse(s)
(m. 2002)
Children1
Awards
  • Calogero Pagliarello Research Award
  • Georges Köhler Prize
  • German Sustainability Award
  • Axel Springer Award
WebsiteProfile at BioNTech

Özlem Türeci (Turkish pronunciation: [ˈœzlæm ˈtyredʒi]; born 6 March 1967) is a German physician, scientist and entrepreneur. In 2008, she co-founded the biotechnology company BioNTech, which in 2020 developed the first messenger RNA-based vaccine approved for use against COVID-19. Türeci has served as BioNTech's chief medical officer since 2018.[2] Previously, she co-founded Ganymed Pharmaceuticals in 2001 and served as CEO until the company was acquired by Astellas Pharma in 2016. Earlier, Türeci worked primarily in research and teaching.[3] She is also a Privatdozentin at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.[4][5] Türeci and her spouse, Uğur Şahin, have won a number of awards, and in 2020, became the first Turkish German on the list of Germany's top 100 wealthiest people.[6]

Personal life and education[edit]

Born in Lastrup, West Germany in 1967, Türeci is the daughter of Turkish immigrants. Her mother was a biologist. Her father, a surgeon, was from Istanbul and worked at the Catholic hospital St. Elisabeth-Stift in Lastrup in the district of Cloppenburg.[7][8] She attended, among others, the Städtisches Gymnasium in Bad Driburg and the Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium in Bad Harzburg.[9] As a child, she was strongly inspired by the nuns who worked to help people at the hospital her father worked at.[3]

She studied medicine at Saarland University in Homburg and received her doctorate from the Medical Faculty of Saarland in 1992.[10] She was a Heisenberg fellow of the German Research Foundation. Her research focused on the identification and characterization of tumor-specific molecules and the development of immunotherapies against cancer.[11] In 2002, she completed her habilitation qualification at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz in the field of molecular medicine.

While completing her final year of studies, Türeci met her future husband, Uğur Şahin, who was working at Saarland University Hospital in Homburg.[12] They discovered that they shared an interest in using the body's immune system to fight cancer.[13] The couple married in 2002 and had a daughter four years later.[14][15] Although Türeci and her husband became billionaires as a result of their business interests, the family continues to live modestly.[3][16]

Career[edit]

University Medicine Mainz[edit]

Türeci was a staff member of the University Medical Center Mainz [de] in the special research area of immunology.[17][18] Since 2002, she has been a private lecturer there in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Together with her husband and their mentor, the immunologist Christoph Huber, she developed the concept of a "translational institute", which was realized in 2001 with the foundation of TRON, short for "translational oncology."[19][20][21] This is a biopharmaceutical research institute that develops new diagnostics and drugs for the therapy of cancer and other diseases with high unmet medical needs.[22] Two companies later founded by Türeci and her husband are spin-offs of work done at the university in Mainz.[23]

Ganymed Pharmaceuticals[edit]

In 2001, Türeci and her future husband founded the company Ganymed Pharmaceuticals.[24] This company focused on a new class of cancer drugs called ideal monoclonal antibodies[25] and developed zolbetuximab, which is used to treat esophageal and gastric cancer.[26] She was chief scientific officer (CSO) from 2001 to 2008 and led the company from 2008 to 2016 in the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In 2016, the company was sold to Astellas Pharma for $1.4 billion and is now a subsidiary of that company.[3][27]

BioNTech[edit]

Headquarters of BioNTech in Mainz

In 2008, Türeci, her husband, and Christoph Huber founded the Mainz-based biotechnology company BioNTech,[14][28] choosing a name derived from Biopharmaceutical New Technologies.[29] Türeci has been Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the company since 2018.[30][31] As CMO, she is primarily responsible for Clinical Research and Development.[32] From 2009 to 2018, she served as chair of the company's scientific advisory board. Originally, the company focused on the development and manufacturing of active immunotherapies based on Messenger RNA (mRNA) and other technologies for a patient-specific approach to the treatment of cancer and other serious diseases.[14][3][19][33] Along with researchers from TRON, they hired Katalin Karikó, who had developed a way to avoid triggering an inflammatory reaction when injecting an mRNA drug.[21][34][29]

Project Lightspeed - Development of Covid-19 vaccine[edit]

Türeci and Uğur Şahin during the honorary doctorate ceremony given by the University of Cologne Faculty of Medicine, 2021

In January 2020, Türeci's husband read an article in The Lancet medical journal regarding a novel coronavirus later named COVID-19.[14][3][32] Concerned that a pandemic could be coming, the couple decided to apply the mRNA vaccine technology they had been researching for two decades to developing a vaccine against the disease,[28][16] which at the time was spreading in China.[3][21]

They convinced the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer, with whom they had previously begun working on an influenza vaccine, to help with development and distribution costs.[25] By March 2020, they had five vaccine candidates ready to test in humans, and by November 2020, results indicated that the vaccine was more than 90% effective.[14][3] The following month, the vaccine was authorized for use in Britain and the United States, and the first patient was injected at a hospital in Coventry.[28][21][25] As of February 2021, BioNTech was planning to produce 2 billion doses of their vaccine by the end of 2021.[35]

Türeci was responsible for the clinical trials in the development of the vaccine called BNT162b2 (the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID‑19 vaccine, sold under the brand name Comirnaty).[36][3][37] Türeci credits the rapid success of the project in part to international collaboration, including Pfizer and the Chinese firm Fosun Pharma.[28] BioNTech itself has staff from 60 countries.[28]

Türeci and her husband were named Financial Times People of the Year for 2020 based on their ability to produce a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 less than a year after the genetic sequence of the virus was released, an achievement cited as "one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of our time."[21] They also appeared on the cover of the American news magazine Time in January 2021.[16]

Current initiatives[edit]

Using funds from the successful vaccine, BioNTech plans to pursue its original goal of creating an mRNA-based cancer vaccine; Türeci remarked in March 2021 that the company had several vaccines, with the expectation of offering them to patients within 2 years.[28] Ideally, they will be able to design tailor-made therapies for individual patients. So far, they have treated over 440 patients with 17 types of tumors.[29]

In addition, BioNTech is working on an mRNA vaccine to prevent malaria and investigating the production of vaccines in Africa.[38]

Other[edit]

Türeci has filed more than 80 international patent applications and published more than 110 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.[30] She is internationally active as a lecturer.[39]

Business associations[edit]

Publications[edit]

  • Miller, Joe; Şahin, Uğur; Türeci, Özlem (2021). Projekt Lightspeed: Der Weg zum BioNTech-Impfstoff [Project Lightspeed: The Road to the BioNTech Vaccine] (in German) (1st ed.). Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag. p. 352. ISBN 978-3-498-00277-0.

Awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Über zwei Wissenschaftler, die nicht nur Hoffnung gegen das Virus machen" (in German). Tagesspiegel. 26 April 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2021. Beide sind Kinder türkischer Einwanderer, deutsche Staatsbürger und weltweit angesehene Wissenschaftler. [Both are children of Turkish immigrants, German citizens, and internationally respected scientists]
  2. ^ "Das Führungsteam", Homepage (in German), BioNTech, archived from the original on 10 December 2020, retrieved 30 November 2020
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gelles, David (10 November 2020). "The Husband-and-Wife Team Behind the Leading Vaccine to Solve Covid-19". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 17 November 2020. (subscription required)
  4. ^ Vorlesungsverzeichnis, Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz, archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 30 November 2020
  5. ^ "Privatdozentin Dr. Özlem Türeci", DFG - GEPRIS - (in German), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 30 November 2020
  6. ^ Philip Oltermann (10 November 2020), "Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci: German 'dream team' behind vaccine", The Guardian, archived from the original on 17 January 2021, retrieved 6 February 2021, The comments hinted at the scientific rigour, unrelenting work ethic and appetite for entrepreneurship that has seen Sahin and Türeci's company outpace more well-established competitors in the race for a Covid-19 vaccine – and made the couple the first Germans with Turkish roots to enter their country's rich list this autumn, at number 93.
  7. ^ Lastruperin ist Corona-Hoffnung: Biontech-Gründerin Türeci (in German), NDR, archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 30 November 2020
  8. ^ Sansür, Latif (29 November 2020). "Dünyanın konuştuğu bilim insanı Türeci'nin fotoğraf albümü". Sözcu. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  9. ^ Budde, Reinhold, Forscherin lebte in Bad Driburg (in German), archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 30 November 2020
  10. ^ Türeci, Özlem, Nachweis von DNA-Polymorphismen anhand von Minisatelliten-Profilen bei Tumoren und Zellinien und Untersuchungen zur Caseinkinase 2 in der Oozyte von Xenopus laevis, archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 24 December 2020
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  17. ^ "AG Sahin/Türeci", 14. Mainzer Sommer Uni, III. Medizinische Klinik und Poliklinik der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 30 November 2020
  18. ^ Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Özlem Türeci, Internistin in 55131 Mainz, Obere Zahlbacher Straße 63 (in German), archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 30 November 2020
  19. ^ a b c Rodríguez Fernández, Clara (9 October 2017), The Woman Developing the Next Generation of Cancer Immunotherapy, archived from the original on 14 November 2020, retrieved 30 November 2020
  20. ^ Festakt zum Jubiläum der Uni Mainz (in German), archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 30 November 2020
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  22. ^ Über TRON (in German), TRON – Translationale Onkologie an der Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, archived from the original on 20 March 2021, retrieved 26 October 2020
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  49. ^ Princess of Asturias Award 2021
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  56. ^ Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]