Millions of doses have been administered across the world, but it has been revealed today that Pfizer initially turned down the offer to develop its Covid vaccine because executives believed the virus could be “controlled” and that mRNA technology was too experimental. The Telegraph has the story.
Dr. Ugur Sahin and his wife, Dr. Özlem Türeci, the founders of BioNTech, were told “guys, this is not going to work” by the pharmaceutical giant as the virus was starting to sweep the globe in January 2020.
The mRNA technology, which has proved so crucial to the vaccine breakthroughs, was, at the time, also considered too experimental by Dr. Phil Dormitzer, Pfizer’s Vice-President and Chief Scientific Officer for Viral Vaccines.
“My working assumption was that it [Covid] would be controlled” like the SARS and MERS outbreaks, Dr. Dormitzer admits.
The initial rejection, revealed in a new book, came just days after the Turkish-born couple decided to dedicate BionNTech to creating an mRNA based Covid jab, effectively gambling the business on something that had never been done before. Their company is now worth $85 billion.
Yet Drs. Sahin and Türeci remain close to Pfizer and Dr. Dormitzer, or “Phil” as they know him.
Dr Sahin had a detailed image in his mind of how the pandemic would unfold but also thought the Pfizer man’s assessment “completely rational”.
“After the phone call with Phil, I just thought for a second and said ‘we will call him again in a few weeks,’” Dr. Sahin told the Telegraph.
The couple thought it only a “matter of time” before the drugs giant changed its mind – and they were right. A deal was announced between the two companies a month later.
Worth reading in full.