For their special merits in the development of an mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the two immunologists and Biontech founders Christoph Huber and Ugur Sahin received the Great Medal of Honor from the Austrian Medical Association on Wednesday. The Austrian Huber was able to personally receive the medal from the President of the Medical Association, Thomas Szekeres, in Vienna.
Together with Sahin’s wife Özlem Türeci, the three of them founded Biontech 13 years ago. The focus is on the development and manufacture of technologies and drugs for individualized cancer vaccines.
Great tradition of the art of vaccination
The development of the mRNA vaccine against the new coronavirus is an example of how basic research has succeeded in making an important contribution to the great European tradition of the art of vaccination. Huber recalled that the infectious agents were discovered in Europe. “This wonderful story of the successes of vaccine medicine would deserve to come back into the minds of the general public. Then the hesitation (before the vaccination, note) would perhaps disappear.”
From 1990 until his retirement in 2009, Huber was director of the III. Medical clinic and polyclinic at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. There he recognized the extraordinary talents and personalities of Sahin and Türezi and promoted them: “That is the job of university teachers.”
In his laudation for Huber and Sahin, the President of the Medical Association Szekeres said: “First there was an epidemic that one has never experienced before, and then a major scientific achievement that one has never experienced before.” It is frustrating that a few million people have not yet been vaccinated. Szekeres thanked Huber and Sahin “on behalf of everyone for this great achievement in making this vaccine available.”