Biotech industry gathers at German Biotechnology Days in Stuttgart
The 2021 edition of the German Biotechnology Days (DBT) was held on 20 and 21 September at Messe Stuttgart as a safe hybrid event. About 450 participants attended the two-day event in person, with 240 tuning in via live stream. Some 99 percent of attendees were vaccinated. Despite masks being required and “3G” Covid rules in place throughout the venue, the attendees were nonetheless happy to be able to network face to face again and nurture contacts. The program was wide ranging, covering the entire spectrum of biotechnology from infection research, diagnostics, artificial intelligence, plant biotechnology and biotechnology for foods such as milk and fish, as well as the bioeconomy.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn started his video welcome address with a quote from former German President Roman Herzog’s famous jolt speech (Ruckrede): “What will decide our fate is our ability to innovate.” Spahn said that this was especially true now during the pandemic, and that biotechnology had risen to the challenge of the pandemic and seized the opportunities it had presented. He also highlighted the contributions made by private family companies that for years had been supporting the development of mRNA technology with large investments. In addition, the Minister stressed that going forward it was important for reasons of sovereignty that Germany and Europe continue to play in the global league of biotechnology, adding that the pandemic had very clearly demonstrated the importance of biotechnology.
Other welcoming remarks were made by the Minister President of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, who also emphasised the importance of biotechnology and said that regulation should not cause our most talented people to leave. He went on to say that nothing should be allowed to slip through our fingers – either in the medical arena, or in white and green biotechnology.
The Paradigm Prize of the German biotechnology industry was presented to the BioNTech team in a ceremony on 21 September. By developing the mRNA-based vaccine tozinameran, the team has brought a real breakthrough innovation to market maturity. In doing so it has made an invaluable contribution to global health, while at the same time releasing people and the economy from months of lockdown, stressed Oliver Schacht, Chairman of the Board of BIO Deutschland, in his laudatory speech. Schacht went on to say that a paradigm shift has been achieved, as mRNA is already regarded as a new miracle medicine. In addition, he said in praise that the approval of the first coronavirus vaccine with the “Made in Germany” label has raised the profile of biotechnology and the reputation of founders and entrepreneurship and has made clear how important investors are to the success of the biotechnology industry.
BioNTech founders Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin, now CMO and CEO respectively, expressed their gratitude for the distinction in a video message. Türeci said the prize recognizes exactly what they have been pursuing for the last 20 years, namely paradigm shifts in biomedical research that enable tomorrow’s medicine to be even better. It is also, Sahin explained, a tribute to our supporters from day one, Andreas and Thomas Strüngmann, Michael Motschmann and Helmut Jeggle, as well as to our colleagues and employees who have made the impossible possible. The video message can be viewed in full here.
Michael Motschmann, general partner and board member of MIG AG as well as a BioNTech investor from the very beginning and member of the company’s Supervisory Board, accepted the award in Stuttgart. In his acceptance speech, he spoke about his expectations for BioNTech back when it was newly founded in 2008, and how they have been far exceeded. “Who could have imagined that it would be possible to develop and bring to market a vaccine against a global pandemic in less than a year. This is not the success of just one person, but a team success,” Motschmann emphasised, before adding that it is also a success of scientific achievement made in Germany and a triumph for biotechnology.
Since 2010, the biotechnology association BIO Deutschland has organised the DBT together with the Council of German BioRegions at changing locations. In 2021 in Stuttgart, BioRegio STERN was the regional host, and the partner region was BioLAGO from the four-country region of Lake Constance. The Tübingen-based diagnostics company CeGaT supported the organisers in the run-up to the event by planning the hygiene concept and also provided the on-site coronavirus test infrastructure and oversaw the monitoring of 3G rules – geimpft, genesen, getestet (vaccinated, recovered, tested).
The next edition of the German Biotechnology Days, which will be held in collaboration with Life Science Nord, is scheduled to take place on 4 and 5 May 2022 in Hamburg.