The doctor who led the development of the first licensed coronavirus vaccine in the US, Britain and elsewhere said her company’s decision to move from cancer research to fighting the coronavirus came over breakfast as the possibility a pandemic was imminent.
According to a report by the PTI news agency, little was known about the German company BioNTech outside the pharmaceutical industry before the company worked with US giant Pfizer for the “Project Lightspeed” which beat major rivals in the race to to put the first fully controlled coronavirus vaccine on the market.
“I remember the exact day, January 24, when we made the decision at the breakfast table,” said PTI Ozlem Tureci, BioNTech’s medical director, on Thursday.
In a video call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other officials, Tureci recounted how her husband and business partner, Ugur Sahin, predicted that the outbreak of a mysterious respiratory disease in the Chinese city of Wuhan had all the ingredients for a global pandemic. , PTI reported.
“It alerted and made all of us, ie the entire company, the supervisory board, the owners of the company, move from cancer therapy to this program and divert our resources to developing a vaccine,” quoted PTI Ozlem Tureci .
“We knew we didn’t have the ability to conduct very rapid clinical trials with more than 40,000 volunteers,” said Sahin PTI.
UK regulators granted emergency vaccine clearance to BioNTech on 2 December, based on requests that included data showing a 95% efficacy rate.
The US FDA followed suit on December 11, while the European regulator EMA plans to meet next week to decide on an approval request that the German health minister said could see vaccinations begin on December 27.
Tureci said data from around 140,000 people who have received the first doses of the vaccine in Britain so far showed it was tolerated as well as during trials. Many of BioNTech’s staff will continue to work over the holiday period to ensure doses are shipped quickly, he said.
“We are confident that if we work together we will be able to live a normal life again next winter and there will be no need to shut down,” Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, quoted by PTI.
(With PTI inputs)
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