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Deutscher Zukunftspreis award for the “key to the fight against COVID-19”

Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin, Dr. Özlem Türeci, Prof. Dr. Katalin Kariko, Prof. Dr. Christoph Huber und Bund

Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin, Dr. Özlem Türeci, Prof. Dr. Katalin Kariko, Prof. Dr. Christoph Huber und Bundespräsident Frank-Walter Steinmeier

DPMA President congratulates BioNTech’s team of researchers on being honoured by the Federal President – “Outstanding combination of exploratory urge and entrepreneurial spirit”

Press release of 17 November 2021

Munich/Berlin. The President of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA), Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer, has congratulated the researchers of vaccine producer BioNTech on winning the Deutscher Zukunftspreis award. “I congratulate the researchers on this important award and thank them for their outstanding invention,” said the DPMA President. “The novel mRNA vaccine developed by the prize winners is key to mitigating one of humanity’s problems of our time. Additionally, the founders demonstrated remarkable courage to act as entrepreneurs and build an economically highly successful company in cooperation with investors.”

Prof Ugur Sahin, Dr Özlem Türeci, Prof Christoph Huber and Prof Katalin Kariko of BioNTech SE in Mainz have developed a vaccine against COVID-19, an infectious disease, at unprecedented speed, thus providing billions of people all over the world with protection against infection. The main innovation is to use mRNA technology to vaccinate people. Used as a “blueprint” for specific virus proteins, mRNA is delivered into human cells. When the body comes into contact with the virus, the antibodies produced against the virus proteins allow the immune system to fight the virus efficiently. Patents concerning this technology, in which at least one of the team members is involved, date back to 2008. Since September 2000, more than 1,100 patent applications in 391 patent families have been filed by BioNTech.

The two other teams nominated for the Deutscher Zukunftspreis award, the Federal President’s Award for Technology and Innovation, were:

Dr Carla Recker of Continental AG in Hannover, Dr Christian Schulze Gronover of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Münster and Prof Dirk Prüfer of the University of Münster have developed an eco-friendly material from Russian dandelion that replaces natural rubber from the rubber tree in car and bicycle tyres. As the share of natural rubber in tyres is up to 40%, there is a great potential for environment and climate protection.

Prof Dr Thomas Flohr, Dr Björn Kreisler and Dr Stefan Ulzheimer of Siemens Healthineers AG in Forchheim have enhanced medical imaging with the photon-counting computed tomography. Compared to the currently available apparatuses, the new photon-counting detectors allow images of the body interior – e.g. tissue and bones – to be produced with a significantly higher resolution.

The Deutscher Zukunftspreis award was presented by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on November 17th at an evening event broadcast via live stream and subsequently on German TV channel ZDF. Guests of the event were required to provide evidence of vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19 and additionally of a negative COVID-19 test result. A planned reception by the Federal President was cancelled at short notice due to the tense pandemic situation.

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Inventiveness and creativity need effective protection. The DPMA is the German centre of expertise for all intellectual property rights – patents, utility models, trade marks and designs. As the largest national patent office in Europe and the fifth largest national patent office in the world, our office stands for the future of Germany as a country of inventors in a globalised economy. Its staff of just under 2,800 at three locations – Munich, Jena and Berlin – provide services to inventors and companies. They implement federal innovation strategies and develop the national, European and international IP systems further.

Picture: Deutscher Zukunftspreis / Ansgar Pudenz

Last updated: 5 May 2022