The Ghanaian-born who led Pfizer team to develop Covid-19 vaccine
Ghanaian-born Paul Mensah is a chemical engineer and the vice president of the bioprocess research and development group at Pfizer in St. Louis, in the USA.
He led the team based in St. Louis and Andover, Massachusetts to develop the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to fight the Coronavirus.
Mensah was responsible for developing and manufacturing the vaccine’s DNA starting material and the messenger RNA drug substance that ultimately becomes the vaccine.
His role is significant especially in restoring trust and easing the concerns about the vaccine to people in Black and brown communities.
Mensah has told the St. Louis public radio that he takes pride in knowing that he and his wife have taken the vaccine and that his kids will eventually get it too.
He said in that interview that “I was just ecstatic and relieved. We’ve had a team of people who have been working nonstop on this product. And when you work on these things, you never know if it’s going to work.
And we never expected that it would be 95% effective. . ..You want to work on things that are impactful. But the impact of this one is especially significant, because it’s not just a small patient. The whole world — the whole world — is a patient.”
Mensah also answered questions about the distrust from Black people about Covid-19 vaccine and whether they should get it.
“The history of clinical testing with Black folks in particular, the Tuskegee experiment, I think it’s a good reason why Black people have been skeptical about vaccines and pharmaceutical companies in general.
But I think, you know, since that experiment and over time, I think there have been significant improvements in that process. And there’s been lots of work that has been put in place such that those types of experiments will not happen again,” Mensah said.
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Black community must accept vaccine
Mensah went to assure the black community to accept the vaccine as the only way out of the pandemic.
“What I can say is that, you know, at least for me, working at a company like Pfizer, and being a part of the team that really developed this product, I have every confidence in it. Right? I have personally taken it, and I’m doing fine,” he said.
The chemical engineer also said “the reality is, Black people are more impacted by this than any other group. And so, the only way we get out of this is through vaccination.”
The Ghanaian-born said “years from now, many people will still be talking about the pandemic. And to be able to say that in your own little way, in your small part, you helped the world to get to a stage where we overcame this pandemic, I think that is the pinnacle of a career in my mind. That you helped make the world better.”
Paul Mensah joined Pfizer in 1999 and prior to his current role, Paul led the Culture Process Development group in Bioprocess R&D, which is responsible for the development, characterization, transfer, and scale-up of cell culture and fermentation processes from the regulatory toxicology stage through to licensure.
In the early part of his career, Paul held roles in the Purification Process Development group and has led teams for several biotherapeutics, helping to steer them through clinical development, from Phase 1 through Phase 3.
He also served as a Research Project Leader for an asset in the Rare Disease Research Unit.
Paul is trained as a Chemical Engineer with degrees from Cornell University (B.S.) and the University of Virginia (Ph.D.). He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Society of Biological Engineers.