BioNTech CEO: ‘The science we did was important’ 22.12.2020

In an uncommon interview with DW’s Konrad Busen, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin explains how the agency will answer to a recent virus variant and why he hasn’t been vaccinated.

Dr. Ugur Sahin is co-founder and CEO of German biotech agency BioNTech. In cooperation with US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the company is the first  to occupy a coronavirus vaccine authorized in the EU. Sahin is a clinical physician specialised in immunotherapy and oncology. He spoke with DW’s Konrad Busen relating to the roll-out of the vaccine, the company’s response to the contemporary, extra contagious variant of COVID-19, and why the BioNTech scientists are no longer superheroes. 

DW’s Konrad Busen: Dr. Sahin, what does the approval of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine in the EU mean for ending the pandemic?

Dr. Ugur Sahin: Here is a needed step. It’s the first authorized vaccine in Europe. It methodology that we are able to now originate vaccinating the European inhabitants. We now occupy also got an approval in Switzerland. We’re starting with the vaccinations and we also ask that this would possibly possibly possibly possibly possibly be a profit for the vaccinated of us. As an illustration, we hope to ease the hospitalization of elderly of us already in the route of the following few months.

We also ask that when extra vaccine suppliers will earn approvals, we are able to be ready to set apart a sufficient quantity of vaccine doses and be ready to reach a sufficient immunization rate of between 60 to 70%. This would possibly possibly possibly well attend us regulate the pandemic earlier than the next winter of 2021-2022. 

We now occupy seen info of this quicker spreading variant – a mutation of the virus. From what you know, is your vaccine efficient in difference variant?

We don’t know to this point, because we did no longer but test. Within the next two weeks, we are able to set apart a part of this contemporary virus variant and review whether immune responses in opposition to our vaccines are ready to inactivate that.

Scientifically, the chance is excessive that right here’s the case because even supposing this variant has multiple mutations, finest 1% of the relevant protein has modified. Which methodology 99% are light the identical, and we know that the immune response that our vaccine spend is attacking this protein from multiple facets.

So the chance is excessive that the vaccine will light work. Nonetheless we are able to earn the finally ends up in two weeks, after which we are able to set apart definite.

If you happen to search out out that you just settle on to compose a recent vaccine in opposition to the mutated virus, how lengthy will the building of such a vaccine shield discontinuance you?

Technically, we are able to set apart a recent vaccine in about six weeks. Nonetheless the building would almost definitely shield discontinuance longer because we would possibly possibly possibly possibly settle on to designate for the contemporary vaccine in opposition to the contemporary variant that it produces immune responses. And we would possibly possibly possibly possibly settle on to refer to the authorities whether or not they’d settle for such a change of the vaccine. Here is a scientific and clinical discussion.

Nonetheless I’m assured that if there would possibly possibly be a necessity for a change, that the technology which we are the spend of, the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, would possibly possibly possibly possibly possibly bring the change. 

Essential has been made of the challenges of distributing your vaccine, given the ultra-low temperatures that are obligatory. Live you count on any complications as you originate transport the vaccine into the European Union?

In no procedure. These ultra-cool temperatures are nothing contemporary. Dry ice transportation has been known for extra that 50 years. It’s no longer cutting-edge technology. It’s appropriate a box with dry ice and there are assorted dry ice services which helps us to earn the duty done.

The containers are transported to the sites after which the clinical personnel can shield discontinuance the vaccines out of the containers and set apart them into a fridge. The vaccines will then be stable for five days and we know that there would possibly possibly be a stable interest in starting the vaccinations. So right here’s no longer a accurate downside.

Industrialized countries now occupy the vaccine, but poorer countries plan no longer occupy earn entry to to that vaccine. Is no longer any longer that unjust?

No, I plan no longer think right here’s appropriate. Within the closing weeks, we occupy seen approvals in better than 40 countries, along with in economically emerging countries cherish Mexico or states in South The US. We’re indubitably in making our vaccines on hand, globally. And we are working with authorities worldwide to be definite they’ll earn earn entry to to our vaccines.

Let me ask you a deepest ask: You and your critical other Dr. Özlem Türeci performed such a central role in finding a resolution for combating that virus. How does this feel?

We’re extraordinarily centered. Here is what we had been doing for better than 20 years. It’s our be taught. It’s the procedure in which we take care of scientific and clinical challenges and naturally we know that folks pay quite a lot of attention to what we plan. Nonetheless we don’t see it as something deepest. We see that our work is obligatory.

We’re no longer alone. We’re working along with an international class team right here in Mainz. We’re working along with an international class partner in the USA. We now occupy loads give a boost to by many, many different companies that we set apart no longer feel alone and that we are able to shield discontinuance care of this colossal downside collectively as a team. 

That which you would possibly possibly possibly be scientific superheroes!

We’re scientists. And the science we did modified into once valuable. Nonetheless we weren’t alone in creating this science. I suspect the total scientific community is a superhero and it will indubitably be regarded, no longer as a single event, but as an funding into be taught by so many different scientists who occupy contributed except right here’s done.

You occupy no longer been vaccinated but. Why no longer?

We’re legally no longer allowed to shield discontinuance the vaccine. Obviously, we shield discontinuance into tale. It’s extra valuable for us that our co-workers and partners earn vaccinated, so our aim is to set apart extra that 1.3 billion doses in 2021. And this would possibly possibly possibly possibly furthermore merely finest be done if we are able to continue to work 24/7 with out interruption. And we can occupy to be definite we are able to offer protection to our co-workers and our team participants from COVID-19 infections, because that would possibly possibly possibly possibly mean interruptions and delays in producing vaccine doses. Therefore, we are planning to set apart a separate batch from the EU contingent to set apart our cooperation partners and team participants. 

Why are you legally no longer allowed to shield discontinuance the vaccine?

You know, there would possibly possibly be a priority list. It’s no longer allowed to shield discontinuance the vaccine outdoors that priority list. What is also valuable: we had been even no longer allowed to participate in scientific trials, because by legislation it’s no longer that which which you would possibly possibly possibly be furthermore place confidence in to encompass of us from the company in such trials, which is sufficient. Nonetheless now we face the downside of constructing definite that our company is able to characteristic, and I deem we are able to search out a factual and pretty resolution for that. 

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