Meet the 50 Doctors, Scientists and Healthcare Entrepreneurs Who Became Pandemic Billionaires in 2020

CAPITALISM, 25 Jan 2021

Giacomo Tognini | Forbes - TRANSCEND Media Service

From left to right: Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, Stevanato Group president Sergio Stevanato, and BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin.
Illustration by Forbes; photos, from left: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images; Stevanato Group; Andreas Arnold/DPA/Getty Images

Dec 2020 – Nearly a year after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, the world could be nearing the beginning of the end of a pandemic that has killed more than 2 million people [in Jan 2021]. Vaccination for Covid-19 is underway in the United States and the United Kingdom, and promising antibody treatments could help doctors fight back against the disease more effectively. Tied to those breakthroughs: a host of new billionaires who have emerged in 2020, their fortunes propelled by a stock market surge as investors flocked to companies involved in the development of vaccines, treatments, medical devices and everything in between.

Altogether, Forbes found 50 new billionaires in the healthcare sector in 2020. The most notable newcomers of the year are the scientists behind the two most successful vaccines for the coronavirus  — one developed by Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech, the other by Massachusetts-based Moderna — who have seen their net worths skyrocket since January: Uğur Şahin and Stéphane Bancel.

Virtually unknown at the outset of 2020, both men are now billionaires several times over. BioNTech CEO Şahin, who cofounded the firm with Özlem Türeci, his wife and the firm’s chief medical officer — she owns no shares in the company — is now worth $4.2 billion; his French counterpart at Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, has a $4.1 billion fortune. Moderna’s meteoric rise also produced two more billionaires among its earliest investors, Harvard professor Timothy Springer and MIT scientist Robert Langer. Those vaccines will require billions of glass vials to safely transport them — enter Italy’s Sergio Stevanato, a new billionaire and the majority shareholder in the privately-owned Stevanato Group, which is making glass vials for several dozen vaccine efforts around the world.

It’s not just vaccines: companies developing antibody treatments and drugs to help doctors fight the virus have also benefited from the market frenzy. Carl Hansen, the CEO of Canadian biotech outfit AbCellera, is now worth $2.9 billion after his company went public on December 11, fueled by the Food and Drug Administration’s approval last month of its antibody treatment developed with pharma giant Eli Lilly. Even the firms working behind the scenes to help larger companies test new drugs and devices have seen their stock prices reach new highs. August Troendle, the founder and CEO of Cincinnati-based contract research firm Medpace, is now worth $1.3 billion thanks to a nearly 70% jump in the company’s shares since the beginning of the year.

The new moguls hail from 11 different countries, but the majority live in China, the early epicenter of Covid-19, which is now home to nearly three dozen new healthcare billionaires  — chief among them is Hu Kun, the chairman of medical device manufacturer Contec Medical Systems, which went public on the Shenzhen stock exchange in August. Contec’s shares have risen nearly 150% since the IPO on the back of strong overseas sales of products ranging from pulse oximeters to pulmonary devices used for checking lung conditions, all of which have become more necessary with the spread of Covid-19 throughout the globe.

Here are the 10 most noteworthy newcomers with ties to the fight against the pandemic, followed by the 40 other healthcare billionaires who emerged in 2020:

Uğur Şahin

Net worth: $4.2 billion

Citizenship: Germany

Source of wealth: BioNTech

The Turkish-born physician cofounded BioNTech in the German city of Mainz in 2008 with his wife, Özlem Türeci, who serves as the firm’s Chief Medical Officer. He owns about 17% of the company’s shares. BioNTech’s stock has risen 160% since January on the back of its successful Covid-19 vaccine developed in partnership with Pfizer, which was declared by the U.S. FDA to be 95% effective in preventing Covid-19. The first doses were rolled out in the U.K. on December 8th and in the U.S. on December 14th, with more doses reserved for the European Union, Japan and Canada, among others. Before starting BioNTech, Şahin and Türeci founded biopharma company Ganymed Pharmaceuticals in 2001, which they sold to Japan-based Astellas Pharma for about $460 million in 2016.

Stéphane Bancel

Net worth: $4.1 billion

Citizenship: France

Source of wealth: Moderna

Bancel, a French citizen, became CEO of Massachusetts-based Moderna in 2011 after leaving his previous job as CEO of French diagnostics firm BioMérieux. He owns about 6% of Moderna, down from about 9% when he first became a billionaire in March, after selling more than a million shares as the firm’s stock surged by more than 550% since the beginning of the year. On December 18, Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine – with a reported efficacy of 95% — was the second to be approved by regulators in the U.S. after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The first doses will be administered in the U.S., which ordered 200 million doses with an option for 300 million more.

Yuan Liping

Net worth: $4.1 billion

Citizenship: Canada

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Yuan owns 24% of one of China’s leading vaccine producers, Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products, after her divorce from the company’s chairman (and fellow billionaire) Du Weimin in June. The split instantly made the Shenzhen resident Canada’s richest woman. Kangtai’s stock is up 90% since the beginning of 2020. She worked at the company from 2012 to 2015 as a manager and director and has been a director at a Kangtai subsidiary, Beijing Minhai Biotechnology, since March 2017. Kangtai is the exclusive Chinese manufacturer for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, with a deal to produce 200 million doses, but the company has a checkered history: in 2013, its hepatitis B vaccine was linked to the death of 17 infants, but a government investigation went nowhere and critics were reportedly pressured to retract negative articles. A representative for Shenzhen Kangtai did not reply to a request for comment.

Hu Kun

Net worth: $3.9 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical equipment

Hu is the chairman of Contec Medical Systems, a manufacturer of medical devices based in the  northeastern Chinese port city of Qinhuangdao. He took the company public on the Shenzhen stock exchange in August and owns nearly half of the shares, which are up nearly 150% since the IPO. Contec draws more than 70% of its revenue from overseas and makes a range of medical products for hospitals including nebulizers, stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors.

Carl Hansen

Net worth: $2.9 billion

Citizenship: Canada

Source of wealth: AbCellera

Hansen is the CEO and cofounder of Vancouver-based AbCellera, a biotech firm that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify the most promising antibody treatments for diseases. He founded the company in 2012. Until 2019 he also worked as a professor at the University of British Columbia, but shifted to focus full-time on AbCellera. That decision seems to have paid off, and Hansen’s 23% stake earned him a spot in the billionaire club after AbCellera’s successful listing on the Nasdaq on December 11. The U.S. government has ordered 300,000 doses of bamlanivimab, an antibody AbCellera discovered in partnership with Eli Lilly that received FDA approval as a Covid-19 treatment in November.

Timothy Springer

Net worth: $2 billion

Citizenship: United States

Source of wealth: Moderna

An immunologist and professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard University, Springer was a founding investor in Moderna in 2010 when he put about $5 million into the fledgling company. A decade later, his 3.5% stake is now worth roughly $1.6 billion. Springer is an active investor in biotech, with smaller holdings in publicly traded firms Scholar Rock and Morphic Therapeutic, which grew out of his research with postdoctoral students from his lab at Harvard. He earned his first big payday in 1999 when he sold LeukoSite, a biotech outfit he founded in 1993 and took public five years later, to Millennium Therapeutics for $635 million.

Sergio Stevanato

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Citizenship: Italy

Source of wealth: Medical packaging

Stevanato is president of Italian medical packaging firm Stevanato Group, the world’s second-largest producer of glass vials and a prominent supplier of vials for more than forty Covid-19 vaccines. Founded on the outskirts of Venice in 1949 by Sergio’s father, Giovanni, the company is now run by Sergio’s children, Franco and Marco, who serve as CEO and vice president, respectively. The $700 million (sales) company is also the world’s largest producer of insulin pens and makes machines that craft, sterilize and package billions of vials, syringes and other glass products. In June, Stevanato signed an agreement with the Gates Foundation-backed Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations to provide 100 million vials for nine different Covid-19 vaccines — since then, the firm has penned additional deals with several more vaccine manufacturers which it cannot publicly disclose.

Robert Langer

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Citizenship: United States

Source of wealth: Moderna

Known as the “Edison of Medicine” for his pioneering work in the field of biomedical engineering, Langer is a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a founding investor in Moderna — located just across the street from his office in Cambridge — in 2010 and has never sold a share; his 3% stake is now worth about $1.5 billion. He owns smaller holdings in publicly traded biotech startups SQZ Biotechnologies and Frequency Therapeutics, both founded by postdoctoral students from his lab, and he holds more than 1,400 patents which have been licensed more than 400 times to pharmaceutical and medical companies.

Premchand Godha

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Citizenship: India

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Godha started out as a chartered accountant before entering the pharmaceutical sector in 1975, when he acquired Mumbai-based drugmaker Ipca Labs in partnership with the family of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. The firm, which manufactures generics and pharmaceutical ingredients, saw its stock price nearly double this year partly due to higher production and sales of the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which was touted as a potential cure early in the pandemic before its use was discouraged by the World Health Organization for having little to no effect in reducing mortality from Covid-19.

August Troendle

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Citizenship: United States

Source of wealth: Pharmaceutical services

Troendle is the CEO and founder of Cincinnati-based Medpace, which carries out contract work and clinical trials for pharmaceutical firms developing drugs and medical devices. Before founding Medpace in 1992 and taking it public in 2016, the University of Maryland-trained doctor worked on clinical development at Swiss pharma giant Novartis and as a medical review officer at the FDA. Medpace’s labs handle the gamut of pharmaceutical services, from running swab and antibody tests for Covid-19 for external clinics to running complex clinical trials for drugmakers working on new vaccines and treatments. Forbes estimates that Troendle, who owns about 21% of Medpace shares, is now worth about $1.3 billion, making him the latest healthcare entrepreneur to join the billionaire club in 2020.

Li Juanquan & family

Net worth: $7.9 billion

Citizenship: Hong Kong

Source of wealth: Surgical products

Jian Jun

Net worth: $4.4 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Biotech

Ye Xiaoping

Net worth: $4.2 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Hao Hong

Net worth: $3.4 billion

Citizenship: United States

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Jin Lei

Net worth: $3.2 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Liu Fangyi

Net worth: $3.2 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical equipment

Lv Jianming

Net worth: $3.1 billion

Citizenship: Hong Kong

Source of wealth: Medical equipment

Gan Zhongru

Net worth: $2.8 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Weng Xianding

Net worth: $2.8 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical devices

Chen Xiao Ying

Net worth: $2.7 billion

Citizenship: Hong Kong

Source of wealth: Health information

Xie Juhua & family

Net worth: $2.6 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Dai Lizhong

Net worth: $2.5 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical testing

Miao Yongjun

Net worth: $2.5 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Clinical diagnostics

Hu Gengxi & family

Net worth: $2.3 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Biopharma

Li Zhibiao

Net worth: $2.3 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Personal care products

Lin Zhixiong & family

Net worth: $2.1 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical devices

Alberto Siccardi & family

Net worth: $2.1 billion

Citizenship: Switzerland

Source of wealth: Medical devices

Gao Yi & family

Net worth: $2 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Lin Zhijun

Net worth: $2 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical devices

Xie Liangzhi & family

Net worth: $2 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Biotech

Chen Baohua

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Zhu Yiwen & family

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Healthcare services

Li Wenmei & family

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical equipment

Lin Jie & family

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Liu Xiucai & family

Net worth: $1.6 billion

Citizenship: United States

Source of wealth: Chemicals

Pu Zhongjie & family

Net worth: $1.6 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical equipment

Rao Wei & family

Net worth: $1.6 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Ren Jinsheng & family

Net worth: $1.6 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Xiong Jun & family

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Yi Xianzhong & family

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Felix Baker

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Citizenship: United States

Source of wealth: Biotech investing

Julian Baker

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Citizenship: United States

Source of wealth: Biotech investing

Rajendra Agarwal

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Citizenship: India

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Banwarilal Bawri

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Citizenship: India

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Girdharilal Bawri

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Citizenship: India

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Benedicte Find

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Citizenship: Denmark

Source of wealth: Medical devices

Alan Miller & family

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Citizenship: United States

Source of wealth: Healthcare services

Zhong Ming & family

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Medical instruments

Yuan Jiandong & family

Net worth: $1.1 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Fan Minhua

Net worth: $1.1 billion

Citizenship: China

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

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Giacomo Tognini – I cover billionaires and their wealth for Forbes. In the past, I’ve covered everything from oil & gas for Bloomberg News to the 2014 Indonesian presidential election for the Jakarta Globe. I’m a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and UC Berkeley, and my work has also appeared in the Houston Chronicle, the Calgary Herald, and more.

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