When Pfizer announced the positive results of the phase three trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, stocks soared. The pharmaceutical giant partnered with German biotech firm BioNTech to create the vaccine, which appears to be 90% effective in limited trials against the coronavirus. Shares of BioNTech shares surged upwards 14%, adding to the fortunes of its billionaire founder Ugur Sahin and the company’s biggest investors, billionaire German brothers Thomas and Andreas Struengmann. Sahin saw more than $500 million added to his net worth while the Struengmann brothers added about $1.5 billion total to their two net worths.
Ugur Sahin founded BioNTech in Mainz, Germany in 2008. He was backed by the Struengmann brothers, who were backers of an earlier company founded by Sahin and his immunologist wife Ozlem Tureci back in 2001. That company, Ganymed Pharmaceuticals sold in 2016 for $460 million to Astellas Pharmaceuticals. Thomas and Andreas Struengmann are twin brothers who made their fortunes by founding the generic drug company Hexal in 1986. Hexal sold to Novartis in 2005 for $7 billion.
The excitement over the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is due in part to the fact that it doesn’t rely on weakened forms of the virus to create immunity. Rather it uses RNA – the molecules in cells that control protein production – to tell the immune system to make antibodies to fight off coronavirus. This is an entirely new technology that U.S. biotech firm Moderna is also using it its own coronavirus vaccine. Moderna’s stock has also been on the rise and minted two new billionaires this year as well, CEO Stephane Bancel and Harvard professor Dr. Timothy Springer.
Pfizer’s vaccine announcement boosted optimism that a post-Covid world is within reach, which is news the world needed right now.