Uğur Şahin was born on September 19, 1965, in İskenderun, Turkey. At the age of four, he moved to Germany with his family, who were working at the Ford factory in Cologne. From a young age, Uğur showed a keen interest in scientific research and experiments. After watching a program about cancer on German television, he was inspired by Paul Ehrlich, who discovered the modern immune system and developed chemotherapy. This inspired him to study medicine at the University of Cologne. Uğur Şahin became known for his research on cancer and developed an innovative cancer vaccine that targeted cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. Alongside his wife, Dr. Özlem Türeci, he was also working on a vaccine for melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
Özlem Türeci, born on March 6, 1967, in Lastrup, Lower Saxony, Germany, is the daughter of Turkish immigrants from Rize, Fındıklı. Her father worked as a surgeon at a Catholic hospital. Growing up in a multicultural environment, Özlem was fascinated by the nursing nuns at her father's workplace. She followed in her father's medical footsteps and became a doctor. She met Uğur Şahin while working at the University of Mainz Hospital. Their shared passion for cancer research brought them together. They married in 2002.
Together, Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci founded BioNTech in 2008, aiming to revolutionize the field of immunotherapy for cancer treatment using mRNA technology. Their research on personalized cancer immunotherapies laid the groundwork for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. The couple's visionary approach led them to predict the potential global pandemic and compelled them to start immediate COVID-19 vaccine research before it escalated into a worldwide crisis.