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For BioNTech, the COVID-19 vaccine was simply the opening act

BioNTech’s founding story dates back to the late 1990s, when CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin, his wife and co-founder Ozlem Tureci, and the rest of the seven-person founding team began their research.
Focused specifically on an area dubbed “New Technologies,” mRNA stood out as one area with tremendous potential to deliver the team’s ultimate goal: Developing treatments personalized to an individual and their specific ailments, rather than the traditional approach of finding a solution that happens to work generally at the population level.
Sahin, along with Mayfield venture partner Ursheet Parikh, joined us at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine, his long journey as a founder, what it takes to build a biotech platform company, and what’s coming next from BioNTech and the technologies it’s developing to help prevent other outbreaks and treat today’s deadliest diseases.
“At that time, mRNA was not potent enough,” Sahin recalled. “It was just a weak molecule. But the idea was great, so we invested many years in an academic setting to improve that. And in 2006, we realized ‘Wow, this is now working. Okay, it’s time to initiate a company.'”
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