Topics of the day right in the middle: How BioNTech Mainz is boosting

in the middle

Status: 01/24/2022 2:36 p.m

Mainz, which is otherwise so poor, suddenly has a lot of money because of the BioNTech success. It’s no longer about the cost of well water as it used to be – it’s about plans for a major biotech location.

On a fairly run-down thoroughfare in Mainz that German flagship company has its headquarters: BioNTech. Because of its vaccine profits in the billions, the company with the address An der Goldgrube 12 is also the city’s new source of money.

So there should be a lot going on here soon: BioNTech is already expanding its headquarters. Directly behind it is a Bundeswehr barracks – still. The city is planning a major project on the twelve-hectare site.

Campus is to come

Mayor Michael Ebling from the SPD walks through the barracks, repeatedly points to certain sections and explains the project. After the Bundeswehr moves out next year, Mainz is planning a campus for medical companies here. “We are fortunate at the moment to have become something like the pharmacy of the world through the company BioNTtech,” he says. But they also want to become an internationally visible biotech hub. Then other companies could also settle in Mainz.

Ebling does not want to reveal names yet. But he is already looking forward to the groundbreaking ceremony of a company that is not yet in the city this year.

Spurred on by the BioNTech success, the Mayor of Mainz, Ebling, has big plans for his hitherto rather poor city.

Bild: SWR

“Incubators for the next ideas”

Areas for companies are also to be developed in other parts of the city. However, the city also wants to specifically support start-ups. Laboratory space is needed – especially for start-ups and researchers who are still in the Mainz University Medical Center and want to spin off, says the mayor. You have to push ahead with construction quickly: “We want to create incubators for the next ideas.”

The city is hoping for 5,000 additional jobs in the coming years. In order to make Mainz more attractive as a location, it has also significantly reduced the trade tax rate.

In the meantime, it can also afford it: thanks to BioNTech’s success, a good one billion euros came into the city coffers. So far, the annual income from trade tax has been around 170 million euros. This year, however, Mainz is planning half a billion in revenue.

interested parties in the starting blocks

The company KHR Biotec has its headquarters a good kilometer away. The company was only spun off from the university medicine last summer. That’s what BioNTech did years ago.

Krishnaraj Rajalingam is the company boss. With his small team, he is researching a specific tumor gene. Rajalingam is looking for more specialists. The cancer researcher points to the small laboratory, which is barely more than 30 square meters: “We only have space for six to seven colleagues here. But we want to grow to more than ten employees. We urgently need larger laboratories for this.”

Private investors are currently funding the company’s research. Now Rajalingam is hoping for a boom from BioNTech. “Previously, when people thought of Mainz, they thought of Johannes Gutenberg. Now it’s BioNTech. Mainz has a brand name. This success promotes the cooperation of our company with others.”

Biotech entrepreneur Rajalingam also hopes to benefit from his city’s new image.

Bild: SWR

New BioNTech production facility soon to be ready

BioNTech is also driving other projects in Mainz. A production facility for RNA-based cancer therapy is currently being built. The company plans to produce more than 10,000 batches of cancer vaccines here on 16,000 square meters. BioNTech is thus returning to its actual roots after its excursion to corona vaccines.

Ulrich Förstermann is the scientific director of the university medicine. He knows the two BioNTech founders well and keeps a close eye on developments. “That will also mean one or the other hurdle. We very much hope that it will be successful in the end. And if that is successful, then it will be a quantum leap for humanity and for cancer therapy.”

BioNTech wants to produce novel cancer vaccines here on 16,000 square meters.

Bild: SWR

Förstermann explains that it has recently become much easier to attract specialists from the USA to Mainz. That was impossible until recently. Personnel planning for the biotech hub is already under way. A new network of business and science could emerge. BioNTech alone is planning to almost double the number of employees in Mainz to up to 4,000 and to invest one billion euros.

Where does Förstermann see Mainz in 15 years? “I’m quite confident that people will say: Something very special was created in Mainz in the early 2020s,” he ventures.

How smart to invest?

Mainz has accumulated debts of a good 1.2 billion euros over the years. The financial situation was so bad recently that there was hardly any water for the wells. Now, however, the trade tax will probably bring immense sums in the long term.

However, the mayor is cautious when looking at the good numbers. They want to first replace the loans, then invest sustainably – in real estate, education and infrastructure.

But even the unexpected windfall creates problems: “There is a bottleneck.” On the one hand, there is the construction industry and trades: there is no construction site that is not behind schedule. “And on the other hand, we don’t always find the specialists we need to implement projects.”

Other cities would be only too happy to have such concerns. The vaccine changed the world in the pandemic. Now BioNTech is also boosting Mainz.

Leave a Comment