The husband and wife 'dream team' behind the Covid-19 vaccine

8 December 2020, 08:22 | Updated: 8 December 2020, 10:54

Physicians Ozlem Tureci (left) and Ugur Sahin, the husband and wife 'dream team' behind the breakthrough Covid-19 vaccine.
Physicians Ozlem Tureci (left) and Ugur Sahin, the husband and wife 'dream team' behind the breakthrough Covid-19 vaccine. Picture: BioNTech SE 2020/PA Media

By Joe Cook

As the coronavirus vaccine is rolled out across the UK, eyes are turning to the husband and wife “dream team” who worked to develop the jab.

Physicians Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci founded BioNTech just 12 years ago and worked with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to create the vaccine.

On Tuesday, the NHS became the first health service in the world to begin rolling out the vaccine, with a 90-year-old grandmother becoming the first patient to receive it.

Grandmother Margaret Keenan, 90, received the jab at 6.31am in Coventry on Tuesday, marking the start of an historic mass vaccination programme.

But for the BioNTech couple the journey began in January, after Professor Sahin read an article in a medical journal that left him convinced the virus would spread into a full-blown pandemic.

Mr Sahin described getting the vaccine approved as “an extreme relief”, telling Good Morning Britain it was a ”historic and unprecedented” jab.

"This was accomplished not by cutting corners but by diligent work, using new technology, by international collaboration and new models of dealing with scientific challenges.

"We did everything in the development to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective."

Read more: 'V-Day': Covid vaccine roll out gets under way across the UK

The couple founded BioNTech in 2008, bonded by a shared love of medical research, with the aim of creating a broader range of cancer immunotherapy tools.

On their wedding day in 2002, according to reports, the pair only briefly left their work at the lab to attend the registry office.

Read more: Queen could receive Covid-19 vaccine 'within weeks'

Professor Sahin immigrated to Germany from Turkey when he was four years old. He later graduated as a doctor from the University of Cologne in 1990.

Dr Ozlem Tureci is also of Turkish heritage and earned her Doctor of Medicine at the Saarland University Faculty of Medicine in Homburg, Germany.

While the couple are said to be worth billions, Prof Sahin still reportedly cycles to work.

They are ranked 93rd among the richest Germans, according to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.