The 2021 Deutscher Zukunftspreis was awarded to executives of BioNTech for the project "mRNA vaccines for humanity", based on the discoveries of Vice President Katalin Karikó. The prestigious prize of 250,000 Euros was presented by the German Federal President in Berlin on the evening of 17 November 2021.
The world's first vaccine against COVID-19, the developer of mRNA technology, which opens up a new era in medicine, and the leaders of the pioneering company BioNTech are honoured by Germany's most prestigious science and technology prize, the Deutscher Zukunftspreis. The "German Future Award" ceremony was attended by the three founders of BioNTech in Mainz - Uğur Şahin, Özlem Türeci, Christoph Huber - and the Vice President, Katalin Karikó, Honorary Doctor and Alumni of SZTE.
At the end of the 1980s, biochemist Katalin Karikó recognised that diseases could be treated in an individual-specific and personalised way using artificially produced mRNA. She altered the building block of synthetic RNA in such a way that the biomolecule could be used for medical therapy. This technology has been applied and further developed by the three doctors who founded BioNTech.
"We started our research with the motivation to help cancer patients and now we are committed to helping humanity." - Said Uğur Şahin. As a spokesperson for the Mainz group, he presented their project "mRNA vaccines for humanity" - the first COVID-19 vaccine as the start of a new era in medicine".
In a video, they presented the unusual realisation of the innovation: developing the mRNA vaccine and building production capacity was a race against time. The vaccine, designed to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, is now available to millions of people. mRNA technology could be used to cure many other diseases.
The Deutscher Zukunftspreis rewards innovative, marketable products and the developers. The nomination itself is seen as a great honour in research circles. In 2021, the jury has selected three development results of well-known companies in Hungary.
Continental AG entered the competition with its use of dandelion rubber instead of rubber as a raw material, while Siemens entered the competition with a computed tomography that supports medical diagnosis.
"The BioNTech Company succeeded in developing the Covid-19 vaccine in an unprecedented short time and in having it approved on the basis of the tests carried out." - Stressed Frank-Walter Steinmeier. This was the 25th time that the German Federal President has awarded the prize to scientists, engineers and researchers who have responded to societal challenges.
This year's Deutscher Zukunftspreis was awarded to and received by four executives of a biotechnology company in Mainz on the evening of 17 November 2021. The ceremony in Berlin was broadcasted by ZDF television.
The Deutscher Zukunftspreis trophy was picked up by Özlem Türeci, one of the "immunoengineers", it was raised by Katalin Karikó and passed on to Christoph Huber, who placed it in the hands of Uğur Şahin.The BioNTech group, which won the "German Future Prize", will be supported in its further research work by a prize of €250,000, or around HUF 91 million.
Together with the BioNTech founding couple and other researchers, Katalin Karikó has previously won the William B. Coley Prize, the Princess of Asturias Prize, the Novo Nordisk Prize, the Paul Ehrlich Prize and the Ludwig Darmstaedler Prize.
More details available in our previously written article “3 Innovative Projects Compete for the "German Future Prize"!"