“Covid-19 will probably be with us for another decade”

The corona vaccine made Biontech famous and brought the company a profit for the first time since it was founded in 2008. For the future, the company from Mainz has completely different goals.

Biontech invented the first approved corona vaccine.

Dhe success story of the Mainz biotech company Biontech, which has quickly developed from an insider tip to one of the world’s most important hopes in the fight against the corona epidemic, can now also be expressed in sober business figures. The company posted a surplus of 15 million euros last year, which is the first time since it was founded in 2008; Sales, which were around 100 million euros in 2019, are expected to increase to just under 10 billion euros in the current year – and thus multiply a hundredfold within 24 months.

The corona vaccine that Biontech developed together with the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer is responsible for this. The preparation was approved by the authorities in America and Europe last December, as the first corona vaccine – and the first Biontech product ever. Around 200 million cans have now been delivered, twelve million in Germany. A total of 1.4 billion cans are to be shipped by the end of the year, 100 million to Germany alone.

Much encouraging

So it was an outright understatement when Biontech CEO Ugur Sahin began presenting the business figures on Tuesday with the remark that 2020 had been “a significant year” for the company. Then Sahin and his fellow board members, including his wife Özlem Türeci, who is one of the founders of the company, reported much encouraging things for the coming months.

The focus is on the new production facility for the corona vaccine in Marburg. Last autumn, Biontech took over part of the traditional Behring works from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and converted its purposes. The European Medicines Agency approved the facility last week; According to Sahin, the first vaccine doses from Marburg will be inoculated in mid-April.

Instead of the 750 million cans initially planned, one billion cans a year will be manufactured at this location alone in the future. Together, Biontech and Pfizer want to produce a total of 2.5 billion cans this year, 500 million more than planned in January.

Minus 15 degrees is also possible

Biontech alone holds the patents on the preparation, which is based on the new messenger RNA technology. The Mainz-based company only handles sales and marketing in Germany and Turkey itself, where Sahin’s and Türeci’s families come from; in China this is done by the local company Fosun, in the rest of the world Pfizer.

F.A.Z. Newsletter Coronavirus

Daily at 12.30 p.m.

SIGN IN

Production takes place jointly, in Europe so far mainly at the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium; Income such as development costs are shared in half. A challenge for the use of the vaccine was initially that it had to be stored at minus 70 degrees and could only be thawed shortly before the vaccination appointment.

In the meantime, the manufacturers have proven that the vaccine can be stored for two weeks at minus 15 degrees, which makes it also suitable for conventional pharmacies and general practitioners’ practices. In the course of the year, management plans to add a freeze-dried variant that is easier to use.

According to previous knowledge, the vaccine also acts against the spreading virus variants; The mRNA technology makes adjustments to other variants possible within a few weeks, promised production director Sean Marrett. Clinical tests are currently also being used to determine how well pregnant women and children tolerate the vaccine.

“Need freshening up”

In addition, studies are ongoing to determine whether and when a refreshment of the vaccination protection is necessary. “We notice a decline in the immune response after about six months,” said Biontech boss Sahin. “So I think we will need a refresher. Probably Covid-19 will be with us for another decade. “

For the Mainz company, whose majority owners are the twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann, who became rich with the establishment and sale of the drug manufacturer Hexal, the corona vaccine should not remain the all-determining topic for so long. Sahin and Türeci have been developing novel cancer drugs for much longer than they have been with the virus; 13 different preparations are currently being tested on patients, the most advanced being a skin cancer drug.

“According to our schedule, we could bring several cancer drugs to the market within the next five years,” announced Ugur Sahin on Tuesday. The price of Biontech shares, traded for the first time on the Nasdaq in New York in the fall of 2019 at a price of $ 15, rose 5 percent to $ 100 on Tuesday.