Are BioNTech opening a UK cancer vaccine centre to avoid German bureaucracy?

Are BioNTech opening a UK cancer vaccine centre to avoid German bureaucracy?

BioNTech founders Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci have opened a research centre in the UK, where they will develop their cancer vaccine planned for 2030. Tabloid newspaper Bild has reported that the move is motivated by Germany’s bureaucracy-heavy healthcare system.

Germany’s BioNTech opens UK cancer research centre

BioNTech, the German-Turkish company famous for developing one of the world’s first coronavirus vaccines, has announced that it will open a new cancer research centre in Cambridge.

Since their success with the coronavirus mRNA-based vaccine, wife and husband founders Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci have set their sights on remodelling the new mRNA technology so that it can condition the immune system to attack cancer cells rather than coronavirus.

The development would have the potential to revolutionise medicine and healthcare in Germany and internationally. According to a statement on the BioNTech website, the new Cambridge hub will employ 70 “highly-skilled scientists” and aims to provide “personalised cancer therapies for up to 10.000 patients by the end of 2030”. The first cancer patient will be enrolled in the trials by the end of 2023.

Are BioNTech burdened by German healthcare bureaucracy? 

Since the Mainz scientists announced their plan, German tabloid newspaper Bild has suggested that the move may be due to more lax medical regulations in the UK following Brexit, which would allow BioNTech to develop their cancer research more quickly. Speaking to Bild, Şahin and Türeci praised how the close working relationship between public health authorities and companies allows medical research processes to develop faster in the UK. 

In the statement on the BioNTech website, Şahin pointed to the UK’s highly efficient 2021 vaccine rollout - even according to the most recent data 93,6 percent of people in the UK have been vaccinated with one dose in comparison to 76,4 percent in Germany - as proof of how “the National Health Service, academia, the regulator and the private sector work together in an exemplary way.”

During the early stages of the vaccine rollout, the UK changed its national medical regulations which allowed the national drugs regulator to temporarily authorise the safety standards of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine even though the licensing process was not yet over. This option was always available to all EU countries, but the European Union chose to take the more cautious path, meaning that companies, rather than taxpayers, would have been liable if something had gone wrong.

Thumb image credit: Marcus Krauss /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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