BIONTECH FOUNDERS RECEIVE GERMAN ORDER OF MERIT
The founders of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which developed one of the first vaccines against COVID-19, received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on Friday, March 19, 2021, Christian Rupp of the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin were given the Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit, one of the highest honors conferred by the German state, by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Bellevue Palace, the presidential residence.
It was the first prize to be awarded by the German president in person this year. Chancellor Angela Merkel was also in attendance.
"Your groundbreaking discovery is saving human lives, it is saving livelihoods, it is ensuring our social, economic and cultural survival," Steinmeier said in a speech to mark the event.
Together with its partner, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, BioNTech developed an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 that was the first to be authorized in the European Union, in December.
In an address upon receiving the award, Sahin said the German public should not be demoralized by the third wave of infections. "We have already walked two-thirds of the way - the last part, the next six months, will demand a lot from us," he said.
"We have to join forces again and we must not allow ourselves to be demoralized by this third wave, which is likely to last longer." Steinmeier urged the country to speed up its vaccination drive.