HEROES 6: Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türec – cracking the Covid code at light speed

Arthur Greene

In the early hours of 9 November 2020, the entire planet breathed a collective sigh of relief. After a year of pain, loneliness and economic hardship, the end was in sight. A working vaccine for Covid-19 had been found.

The scientists behind this breakthrough are Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci, a husband-and-wife team from Turkey.

The couple announced that their team had developed a vaccine that was more than 90 percent effective in preventing the disease.

Developed by Pfizer and Dr Sahin’s company BioNTech, the vaccine is currently being rolled out in several countries, including the US, UK and Malaysia.

Though there are other vaccines speedily coming to the fore, the spectacular outcome of Dr. Sahin and Dr. Türeci’s work takes us one step closer to curing the disease which has killed more than 1.6 million people worldwide and has certainly been the single biggest disruption to everyday life since the Second World War.

By January Dr. Sahin already knew that the virus which was spreading rapidly across China would explode into a global pandemic. He, Dr. Türeci and their team immediately cancelled their plans for the rest of the year and commenced work on the aptly named Project Lightspeed.

Nine months later, in October, Dr. Sahin reflected upon the experience in an interview: “It felt not like an opportunity, but a duty to do it, because I realised we could be among the first coming up with a vaccine.”

What was simply a duty to Dr. Sahin and Dr. Türeci was to the rest of the world the first ray of hope after almost a year spent in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

Picture source: @Radio702