Turkish-origin owners of BioNTech reveal how Pfizer rejected their jab
Pfizer initially turned down the offer of developing a coronavirus vaccine because its executives thought the virus would be rapidly contained, according to a report by the U.K.-based daily Telegraph.
The mRNA technology, which has proved so crucial to the vaccine breakthroughs, was, at the time, also considered too experimental by Phil Dormitzer, Pfizer’s vice-president and chief scientific officer for viral vaccines.
“My working assumption was that it [COVID-19] would be controlled” like the SARS and MERS outbreaks, Dormitzer admitted.
The initial rejection, revealed in a new book, came just days after the couple decided to dedicate BionNTech to creating an mRNA-based COVID-19 jab, effectively gambling the business on something that had never been done before.
Their company is now worth $85 billion, yet Şahin and Türeci remain close to Pfizer and Dormitzer, or “Phil” as they know him.
Şahin had a detailed image in his mind of how the pandemic would unfold but also thought the Pfizer man’s assessment was “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,’” Şahin told the daily.
The couple thought it was only a “matter of time” before the drug giant changed its mind. A deal was announced between the two companies a month later.