Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine could potentially be used to combat cancer with the new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used in it.
While the vaccine has been funded by Pfizer, the scientific research behind the Covid-19 vaccine is conducted by BioNTech, a German company founded by a married couple and physicians Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci.
Dr Tureci, 53 was investigating the body’s immune system and its response in fighting tumors when they learned about the coronavirus outbreak. The couple decided over breakfast to apply this technology that they’ve been researching for two decades on the new virus which was killing people around the world.
They labeled their work “Project Lightspeed.”
Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna use messenger RNA (mRNA) to send genetic instructions to the human body’s cells for making proteins that prime it to attack the coronavirus. The same theory is used by scientists to get the immune system to treat tumors.
“Cancer cells make proteins that can be targeted by mRNA vaccines. Progress in this area has been reported in treating melanoma,” Dr. Jeffrey A. Metts, chief of staff at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta told Healthline.
“We have several different cancer vaccines based on mRNA,” Dr Tureci told the Associated Press.
When asked about when the cancer vaccine will be rolled out she said, “that’s very difficult to predict in innovative development. But we expect that within only a couple of years, we will also have our vaccines (against) cancer at a place where we can offer them to people.”
DrTureci and Ugur Sahin were awarded one of the country’s highest decorations, the Order of Merit by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a ceremony attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“You began with a drug to treat cancer in a single individual,” Mr Steinmeier told the couple.
“And today we have a vaccine for all of humanity.”
“It’s about the effort of many: our team at BioNTech, all the partners who were involved, also governments, regulatory authorities, which worked together with a sense of urgency,” says Dr Tureci.
“The way we see it, this is an acknowledgment of this effort and also a celebration of science.”
Both wife and husband have worked hard to reach the top. Sahin and Dr Tureci are now among the 100 richest Germans, their company BioNTech has reached $21 billion after successfully producing the Covid-19 vaccine.