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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 February 2021

UK coronavirus vaccinations could start in four weeks, BioNTech-Pfizer scientist says

Two scientists born to Turkish migrants in Germany are behind the leading trial vaccine that could change the world

Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of German biotech firm BioNTech. Reuters
Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of German biotech firm BioNTech. Reuters

The scientist behind a coronavirus vaccine believe that people in the UK could start to be inoculated by mid-December.

Prof Ugur Sahin, the son of Turkish migrants, said the news that the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine was 90 per cent effective was an "outstanding result".

Prof Sahin and his wife Ozlem Tureci, who is also of Turkish origin, worked on the vaccine at BioNTech, a company they founded in 2008 in Germany.

"The earliest time point for supplying vaccines will not be before the middle of December,” he said.

"And the middle of December will not mean the situation will dramatically change. This will be a difficult winter. It will become worse before it becomes better.

"We could return to normal life by the middle of next year."

The couple are co-founders of BioNTech and are working with Pfizer on one of the world’s 12 leading vaccine trials.

He was asked about the pressure he was under to design a vaccine as 1.29 million people have died from Covid-19.

“It's not a race against each other, it's a race against time," said Prof Sahin, 55.

He said that he would be prepared to take his vaccine if he were permitted.

He also told how he had a head start on the vaccine after reading a scientific paper on a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Prof Sahin said he was struck by how similar his antibody drugs for cancer were to those needed for viral vaccines.

From there, BioNTech assigned 500 people to work on possible compounds, and won support from Pfizer and Chinese drug maker Fosun.

"It was clear that there was a high likelihood it would be a global pandemic and it would come to Germany," Prof Sahin told Sky News.

"It was a logical decision to start as soon as possible. It was very clear that we had no time to lose."

Updated: November 13, 2020 03:05 AM

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