British vaccine chief gets £58m shot in the arm as shares rocket

A little-known British pharmaceutical executive working on a Covid vaccine has seen his wealth catapulted to more than $100million (£75million) after the value of his shares rocketed. 

Sean Marett – chief business and chief commercial officer at BioNTech, the German vaccine partner of US giant Pfizer – has benefited as investors across the world have piled in on news that the drugs firm has developed an effective vaccine. 

Marett’s shareholding, which was worth $37million at the start of the year, is now worth $114million – a paper profit of $77 million (£58million). Marett has not sold any shares this year. 

A shot in the arm: Sean Marett has benefited as investors across the world have piled in on news that the drugs firm has developed an effective vaccine

A shot in the arm: Sean Marett has benefited as investors across the world have piled in on news that the drugs firm has developed an effective vaccine

A shot in the arm: Sean Marett has benefited as investors across the world have piled in on news that the drugs firm has developed an effective vaccine

BioNTech shot on to the global stage earlier this month when it became the first firm to release early data showing its vaccine can prevent more than 90 per cent of people from getting Covid-19. 

The announcement was hailed as a major success story for the married couple behind BioNTech – medical chief Ozlem Tureci and chief executive Ugur Sahin, who co-founded the company in 2008. 

Marett, who joined in 2012, studied biochemistry at King’s College London and has an MBA from Manchester Business School. 

He has worked for pharma giants such as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, and is experienced in striking licensing deals and raising finance. BioNTech partnered with Pfizer on its Covid vaccine to help give it manufacturing scale amid huge global demand for the jab. Its vaccine, which must be stored at -70C to -80C, is expected to be approved by regulators within days for use in Britain. The UK should receive 40million doses by the end of 2021. 

Shares in BioNTech have more than trebled so far this year, valuing the company at $26billion, making Sahin a billionaire and adding to the bulging fortunes of its largest investors, German twins Thomas and Andreas Struengmann. Sahin’s shareholding has grown $2.95billion this year to $4.4billion. 

The share gains for BioNTech’s top executives stand in contrast to the fortunes of investors in its larger British counterparts. 

Shares in GlaxoSmithKline are down 23 per cent this year. AstraZeneca shares are up just 2 per cent in 2020, despite it developing a Covid jab. Astra’s shares fell 8 per cent last week after reporting positive preliminary data from trials of the injection it has developed with the University of Oxford. Astra boss Pascal Soriot admitted a fortuitous error during the trials was behind results that showed its jab had been 90 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19 illness. 

A further global trial will now take place, with patients given half a dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose – the potent technique discovered by accident in the trials. 

Shore Capital healthcare analyst Adam Barker said the dosing error may yet prove a ‘lucky mistake’ and the extra trial is unlikely to hold up regulatory approval in the UK, but may delay it in the US.

Soriot, who holds a relatively modest number of ordinary shares, has seen the value of his holding in the £100billion company go up by just £30,000. But he landed a bumper £14million pay packet last year. 

Glaxo chief Emma Walmsley, who took home £8million last year, has seen the value of her holding rise by £2million since Covid emerged due to a large share award. 

Rather than create a vaccine alone, GSK has opted to develop an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster, with three partners: France’s Sanofi, Canada’s MediCago and China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals which are all in clinical trials. 

BioNTech declined to comment. 

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