The headquarters of BioNTech in Mainz, Germany.

When BioNTech made its stock-market debut on the Nasdaq last October, the German biotechnology company was valued at just under $3.4 billion.

Just over a year later, BioNTech is now worth more than $29 billion, as the Mainz, Germany–based company’s COVID-19 vaccine has been at the forefront of the global fight against the virus.

Shares of BioNTech DE:22UA BNTX have soared more than 257% in 2020.

Its vaccine candidate, developed in partnership with U.S. drug manufacturer Pfizer PFE, -0.35%, was granted emergency-use authorization in the U.K. on Wednesday, the first country to permit its use. The rollout is set to begin next week, with people over the age of 80, care-home residents and staff and health workers given priority.

The vaccine has been shown to have an efficacy rate of 95% in people over 65 years in a Phase 3 trial, with no major safety concerns.

Don’t miss: What we still don’t know about COVID vaccines after the U.K.’s emergency-use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to meet on Dec. 10 to decide whether to approve the vaccine, while European Union regulators will meet on Dec. 29.

Here are five things you need to know about BioNTech:

A husband-and-wife team

BioNTech was co-founded in 2008 by Uğur Şahin, chief executive of the company, and his wife Özlem Türeci, a fellow board member, along with Austrian cancer expert Christoph Huber.

Şahin, 55, and Türeci, 53, are both scientists and the children of Turkish immigrants to Germany. Şahin’s father worked in a Ford factory in Cologne.

In 2001, the pair founded Ganymed Pharmaceuticals, a spinoff from the University of Mainz in Germany and the University of Zurich in Switzerland that focused on developing a new class of cancer drugs called ideal monoclonal antibodies.

Investors in Ganymed included German investment fund MIG Fonds as the family office of twins Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann, who now hold a large stake in BioNTech. The brothers have long been big investors in biotech, having sold their generic-drug company Hexal to Swiss drug maker Novartis NVS, -1.10% for around $7 billion in 2005.

In 2016, Ganymed was sold to Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma for $1.4 billion.

BioNTech’s IPO

BioNTech raised $150 million in its U.S. initial public offering on the Nasdaq on Oct. 9, 2019, after it sold fewer shares and at a lower price than originally planned, giving the company a market valuation of $3.4 billion.

The IPO followed BioNTech’s $325 million fundraising in July, which marked one of the biggest private financing rounds for a European biotechnology company in history.

The fundraising was led by Fidelity Management & Research Co., with participation from new and existing investors, including the Strüngmann family office.

Şahin and Türeci are now among the 100 richest Germans, according to the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

The Pfizer relationship

BioNTech has had a relationship with Pfizer since 2018, when the U.S. drug giant agreed to pay the German company up to $425 million in an alliance to develop mRNA-based vaccines for the prevention of influenza.

In March of this year, the month when the World Health Organization labeled the novel-coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, Pfizer and BioNTech announced plans to jointly develop a COVID-19 vaccine. “We believe that by pairing Pfizer’s development, regulatory and commercial capabilities with BioNTech’s messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccine technology and expertise as one of the industry leaders, we are reinforcing our commitment to do everything we can to combat this escalating pandemic, as quickly as possible,” said Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, at the time.

The Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine — called BNT162 — uses mRNA, the molecules in cells that control protein production, to teach the immune system to make coronavirus-fighting antibodies. The mRNA approach is also being used by Cambridge, Mass.–based Moderna MRNA, +3.05% and CureVac CVAC, -1.89%.

BioNTech has said that the vaccine will be priced “well below typical market rates,” and BioNTech and Pfizer are to split the gross profits of the vaccine equally.

“BioNTech has been a loss-making company since our inception 12 years ago and we’ve invested over $1 billion to develop our mRNA technology platform,” said Ryan Richardson, head of strategy at BioNTech, at a Financial Times conference.

Vaccine production

Based on current projections, Pfizer said it expects to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
The investigational vaccine is a two-dose vaccine, so the first batch would likely be given to roughly 25 million people.

In June, BioNTech signed a €100 million debt financing agreement with the European Investment Bank for the development of its experimental shot, to help scale up its commercial manufacturing capacity.

In September, it received €375 million in funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to support its COVID-19 vaccine program.

That same month, it announced the acquisition of a manufacturing site in Marburg in western Germany from Swiss pharma group Novartis. The state-of-the art facility is expected to expand BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine production capacity by up to 750 million doses a year, or more than 60 million doses a month, once fully operational, BioNTech said.

BioNTech, which itself employs around 1,400, already has two other sites in Germany producing the vaccine candidate for clinical trials, in addition to at least four Pfizer production sites in the U.S. and Europe.

A deal with China

BioNTech’s vaccine partnership with Pfizer covers the entire global market except China, where it partners with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical 600196, -1.40%. BioNTech said in August that Hong Kong and Macau, China’s autonomous territories, have ordered 10 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine. It has signed a letter of intent to allow Hong Kong’s Jacobson Pharma to distribute the vaccine locally once it is available.

Guo Guangchang, the billionaire chairman of Fosun International FOSUF, +0.65%, said on Nov. 6. that he was hopeful that the Pfizer–BioNTech experimental vaccine will become available in China as soon as it is made available in the U.S. and Europe.

“We hope the market launch of the vaccine in China will be held at the same time as in the U.S. and Europe,” he told the South China Morning Post. “Or, at least, the timing of its launch in China will be just a little bit behind them.”