Recently, the world received the news that, as early as spring of next year, two highly effective vaccines would become available to the public. One is being developed by Pfizer, in partnership with German firm BioNTech, and the other by Moderna Therapeutics. What has gone widely unnoticed is the fact that immigrants or children of immigrants played vital roles in both technological breakthroughs.
BioNTech was founded by a husband and wife team, Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, who are both the children of Turkish immigrants who arrived in Germany as guest workers. Since 2008, the company has manufactured active immunotherapies for patient-specific approaches to the treatment of diseases.
Similarly, Noubar Afeyan emigrated with his parents from Lebanon to Canada as a teenager, and soon after, began working in the US under an H-1B visa. In 2010, he cofounded Moderna, a biotechnology company that specializes in messenger RNA.
As the two companies race to produce a safe and widely distributable vaccine, the world is once again seeing the vital benefits that immigrants and their children can bring to any country.
The Thanksgiving season invites Americans to reflect on the many things they are thankful for. Oftentimes, the holiday is spent expressing gratitude for family, friends, health, and, of course, great food. The COVID-19 era is no exception, even amidst quarantines, social distancing recommendations, and necessarily smaller gatherings. After the adversity and hardship of the last year, Americans will be looking—more than ever—for things to be thankful for.
Thanks to the cutting-edge work of immigrants such as Noubar Afeyan, Ugur Sahin, and Ozlem Tureci, the public can look forward to a possible end to the Coronavirus pandemic.