Their coronavirus vaccine candidate has made them billionaires. This modest German Turkish couple doesn’t own a car.

Their coronavirus vaccine candidate has made them billionaires. This modest German Turkish couple doesn’t own a car.

BERLIN — At 8 p.m. Sunday evening, the phone rang with the call Ugur Sahin, chief executive of the German medical start-up BioNTech, had been anxiously awaiting.

“Are you sitting down?” Pfizer chief Albert Bourla asked him.

The news that followed was better than Sahin had hoped: Preliminary analysis from Phase 3 trials of his company’s coronavirus vaccine showed 90 percent protection.

“I was more than excited,” said Sahin, speaking to The Washington Post on a video call from his home in the western German city of Mainz.

The interim results put the 55-year-old and his co-founder wife, Ozlem Tureci, in the front of the pack racing for a safe and effective vaccine. Global markets rallied, and stock soared for BioNTech — a small-by-pharma-industry-standards company that has yet to see a vaccine using its technology brought to market. For the corona-weary masses, it was a much-needed glimpse of a potential end in sight.