David Gelles in the New York Times:
BioNTech began work on the vaccine in January, after Dr. Sahin read an article in the medical journal The Lancet that left him convinced that the coronavirus, at the time spreading quickly in parts of China, would explode into a full-blown pandemic. Scientists at the company, based in Mainz, Germany, canceled vacations and set to work on what they called Project Lightspeed.
“There are not too many companies on the planet which have the capacity and the competence to do it so fast as we can do it,” Dr. Sahin said in an interview last month. “So it felt not like an opportunity, but a duty to do it, because I realized we could be among the first coming up with a vaccine.”
After BioNTech had identified several promising vaccine candidates, Dr. Sahin concluded that the company would need help to rapidly test them, win approval from regulators and bring the best candidate to market. BioNTech and Pfizer had been working together on a flu vaccine since 2018, and in March, they agreed to collaborate on a coronavirus vaccine.