• Projekt Lightspeed

    Using mRNA technology to produce a COVID-19 vaccine
    A hybrid exhibition

  • Step into the micro-worlds of our cells
  • Look over researchers’ shoulders in the lab
  • Hear the story directly from the protagonists
  • Be there when the vaccine is produced
  • Observe the changes and keep an eye on developments
  • Be there when millions of vaccine doses are filled
  • Follow the vaccine as it travels around the world



Team mRNA

In the 1990s
Ultra-magnified visualization of a strand of mRNA
In the 1990sÖzlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin research mRNA and the possibilities of developing immunotherapies against cancer cells.
Portrait of the young research team Dr. Özlem Türeci and Dr. Uğur Şahin
From 2008The founding of BioNTech, with high investments in the startup, opens up new possibilities for conducting enormously cost-intensive research and carrying out complex studies.
A researcher adjusting laboratory apparatus

Scientific optimisation takes time and patience and honest communication and the willingness to invest even over a decade or more.

Uğur Şahin

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The beginning

A viral outbreak

Initial thoughts

At the end of 2019
Panoramic view of Wuhan, China
December 2019In the Chinese city of Wuhan, population 8 million, there is a high incidence of lung diseases, some of which are severe or even fatal, and are apparently transmitted by infection.
Paramedics wearing protective masks attend to an ill woman in the intensive care unit
January 24, 2020A previously unknown coronavirus is suspected as the cause. Uğur Şahin comes across an article about the outbreak in The Lancet. He immediately grasps the global implications.
Researchers in protective gear examine samples under the microscope

I assumed that every person is susceptible to the infection.

Uğur Şahin

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Motto: “At light speed”


The project starts

January 27, 2020
The BioNTech headquarters in Mainz, Germany
January 27, 2020At the BioNTech headquarters, a series of meetings is scheduled at short notice. Uğur Şahin informs the management and teams about his findings and forecasts. In plain language: It’s a pandemic.
Uğur Şahin giving a powerful speech
January 27, 2020The message is urgent: Redirect all BioNTech resources to developing, producing, and marketing an effective vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
BioNTech employees listen attentively

... that we have to be like light – taking the shortest route in the shortest possible time – to develop this vaccine.

Uğur Şahin

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Against the pandemic, in real time

The “first wave”

Full speed ahead!

Early 2020
A woman walks through the deserted city of New York
Early 2020The virus spreads globally, reaching North America, Latin America, Australia, and Africa ...
Nurses in Ecuador at the end of their tether
Early 2020Europe becomes the epicenter of the pandemic. In the “first wave”, many people become seriously ill, and thousands die.
Scene from Italy: A convoy of military vehicles transports victims of COVID-19

I said: We‘d better get going …!

Kathrin Jansen

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The invention of Comirnaty

A company reorganizes itself

Biotechnology at top speed

Late January 2020
A researcher in protective gear operates complex apparatus in the lab
From February 2020A large part of the BioNTech team works in upgraded home offices.
A video conference of BioNTech employees takes place on a computer screen
From February 2020In the labs, preclinical studies are in full swing, seeking to identify the first selection of vaccine candidates.
A lab employee in protective gear works on a section of the mRNA vaccine production line

Developing a vaccine against a relatively new pandemic so quickly is unprecedented from a historical perspective.

Malte Thießen

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A factor of 100,000

From the lab process to mass production

Vaccine for the world

From March 2020
Employees prepare part of the production line
From March 2020Producing mRNA vaccine for the global mass market means upscaling the laboratory-proven process by a factor of 100,000 in the shortest possible time.
Lab workers in protective gear prepare a section of the production line for the mRNA vaccine
March – December 2020A global production network is established within a few months: BioNTech and Pfizer facilities, and 20 sites of other partners, churn out billions of vaccine doses.
A lab worker supervises the assembly of a production batch with ready-filled vaccine ampoules

From one gram to five hundred – and then tenfold of this …!

Sierk Poetting

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The great campaign

The vaccine is on its way!

The campaigns are underway – the discussions are, too

December 2, 2020
A hand in a disposable glove holds an ampoule of the COVID-19 vaccine
December 2, 2020Great Britain is the first country to approve the COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech/Pfizer.
Hospital employees applaud Maggie Keenan – the first person to be vaccinated with the active ingredient Comirnaty
December 2020Other countries follow. And shortly before the end of the year, the EU does, too. At BioNTech, the equipment runs 24/7 in order to fulfill all delivery agreements.
A laboratory team works closely together to fill the mRNA vaccine

… the largest pharmaceutical contract ever in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.

Sean Marret

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The mutants are coming…!

The virus is changing

Further development, adaptation, efficiency

Mid-December 2020
A scientist looks intently through the eyepiece of a laboratory microscope
Mid-December 2020There are increasing reports of a Variant of Concern of the line B.1.1.7, which has been spreading in the UK since September – the Alpha variant
Diagram of a spike protein of the Alpha variant B.1.1.7., with the individual mutations labeled
July, October, November, December 2020 / May, November 2021Epsilon, Beta, Gamma, Eta, Delta, Omicron – the mutated variants of the virus originated in different places on earth.
Microscopic diagrams of the COVID-19 variants Delta and Omicron

The virus is getting fitter.

Uğur Şahin

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Vaccine justice – a global debate

In focus: the patents

Strategies for global vaccine production

Looking over the shoulder: A batch of filled vaccine ampoules is packed for shipment
2021Of the approximately 3 billion vaccine doses produced by BioNTech this year, more than 1 billion go to low- and middle-income countries.
An African doctor vaccinates a boy against COVID-19
2021 and todayBut there are many and powerful voices calling on pharmaceutical companies to release the patents on drugs against COVID-19.
Close-up of WTO President Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at a conference

It is not a simple recipe to make an mRNA ...!

Uğur Şahin

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Key technology mRNA

The research continues

Against the „global common diseases“

Today and in the future
Two hands hold a sample of biomaterial into the camera
Today and in the futureParallel to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, specialized teams at BioNTech continue to develop mRNA-based immunotherapies for cancer.
Eine junge Frau untersucht Biomaterial unter dem Mikroskop
Today and in the futuremRNA technology may also be the key to combating other globally prevalent diseases.
Ultra-magnified microscope view of the malaria pathogen

It’s likely that RNA technology will transform the entire field of medicine.

Ulrich Kalinke

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