Our history spans nearly a century and it all began with two small Danish companies, Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium and Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium.

After hearing of the discovery of insulin in 1921, Danish Nobel laureate August Krogh and his wife Marie, a doctor living with diabetes, were intrigued. At Marie’s urging, August traveled to Canada to seek permission from the researchers to produce this life-saving medicine in Denmark. Upon August’s return, Marie also convinced the scientist Hans Christian Hagedorn to join her husband and August Kongsted from Løvens Kemiske Fabrik. In March 1923, the first patients were treated with their insulin, setting in motion a century of innovation within protein-based treatments for people living with serious chronic diseases.

Explore our history

Insulin production begins in Scandinavia

Hagedorn's villa in Hellerup where he and August Krogh began experimenting with extracting insulin

Hagedorn's villa in Hellerup where he and August Krogh began experimenting with extracting insulin

Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium commercialized the production of insulin after the extraction and purification technique was brought to Denmark from Canada by August Krogh. With insulin, diabetes was no longer a death sentence and life expectancy improved dramatically.

Insulin production begins in Scandinavia

Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium commercialized the production of insulin after the extraction and purification technique was brought to Denmark from Canada by August Krogh. With insulin, diabetes was no longer a death sentence and life expectancy improved dramatically.
Hagedorn's villa in Hellerup where he and August Krogh began experimenting with extracting insulin

Hagedorn's villa in Hellerup where he and August Krogh began experimenting with extracting insulin

The evolution of the Novo Nordisk logo

The evolution of the Novo Nordisk logo

The race to defeat diabetes begins

1925
Brothers Harald and Thorvald Pedersen, who were former employees of Nordisk, formed their own company, Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium. Novo and Nordisk competed vigorously until they merged in 1989 to become Novo Nordisk A/S.
1925

The race to defeat diabetes begins

Brothers Harald and Thorvald Pedersen, who were former employees of Nordisk, formed their own company, Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium. Novo and Nordisk competed vigorously until they merged in 1989 to become Novo Nordisk A/S.
The evolution of the Novo Nordisk logo

The evolution of the Novo Nordisk logo

Insulin production in the 1930s at Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium

Steno Memorial Hospital founded in 1932 and Hvidøre Diabetes Sanatorium founded in 1938

Steno Memorial Hospital founded in 1932 and Hvidøre Diabetes Sanatorium founded in 1938

Understanding patients’ needs

1930s
Novo and Nordisk each established diabetes hospitals in Denmark to provide specialized diabetes care and lifestyle guidance while gaining a better understanding of patients’ needs. In 1992, the two hospitals merged to become the Steno Diabetes Center, and Novo Nordisk continues to build on this holistic approach to care today.
1930s

Understanding patients’ needs

Novo and Nordisk each established diabetes hospitals in Denmark to provide specialized diabetes care and lifestyle guidance while gaining a better understanding of patients’ needs. In 1992, the two hospitals merged to become the Steno Diabetes Center, and Novo Nordisk continues to build on this holistic approach to care today.
Steno Memorial Hospital founded in 1932 and Hvidøre Diabetes Sanatorium founded in 1938

Steno Memorial Hospital founded in 1932 and Hvidøre Diabetes Sanatorium founded in 1938

NPH decreases the burden of diabetes treatment

Hans Christian Hagedorn

Hans Christian Hagedorn

NPH (Neutral Protamine Hagedorn) insulin was developed in 1946 and soon accounted for much of the world's consumption of longer-acting insulin. With NPH, people with diabetes require fewer injections. It is named after Hans Christian Hagedorn, who discovered the prolonging effect of protamine on insulin.

NPH decreases the burden of diabetes treatment

NPH (Neutral Protamine Hagedorn) insulin was developed in 1946 and soon accounted for much of the world's consumption of longer-acting insulin. With NPH, people with diabetes require fewer injections. It is named after Hans Christian Hagedorn, who discovered the prolonging effect of protamine on insulin.
Hans Christian Hagedorn

Hans Christian Hagedorn

Insulin production in the 1940s at Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium

Foundation ownership supports our development

Harald and Thorvald Petersen founded the Novo Foundation in 1951

Harald and Thorvald Petersen founded the Novo Foundation in 1951

Nordisk’s foundation was established in the 1920s and Novo followed in 1951. The foundations merged in 1989 and today the Novo Nordisk Foundation continues to award research and humanitarian grants while enabling Novo Nordisk to do what is best in the long term for patients, employees and shareholders.

Foundation ownership supports our development

Nordisk’s foundation was established in the 1920s and Novo followed in 1951. The foundations merged in 1989 and today the Novo Nordisk Foundation continues to award research and humanitarian grants while enabling Novo Nordisk to do what is best in the long term for patients, employees and shareholders.
Harald and Thorvald Petersen founded the Novo Foundation in 1951

Harald and Thorvald Petersen founded the Novo Foundation in 1951

Fermentation tanks for penicillin and streptomycin

Fermentation tanks for penicillin and streptomycin

New frontiers in innovation

1960s
Both companies actively pursued and developed techniques to produce pharmaceutical products using fermentation. Novo’s enzyme expertise also led to the introduction of its first detergent enzyme made by fermentation, and Novozymes A/S eventually split off as a separate entity in 2000.
1960s

New frontiers in innovation

Both companies actively pursued and developed techniques to produce pharmaceutical products using fermentation. Novo’s enzyme expertise also led to the introduction of its first detergent enzyme made by fermentation, and Novozymes A/S eventually split off as a separate entity in 2000.
Fermentation tanks for penicillin and streptomycin

Fermentation tanks for penicillin and streptomycin

Novo Nordisk production plant in Kalundborg

Novo Nordisk production plant in Kalundborg

Ramping up production

1969
Novo opened a production plant in Kalundborg, Denmark, designed by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. The facility, which features visible pipelines, continues to produce half of the world’s insulin.
1969

Ramping up production

Novo opened a production plant in Kalundborg, Denmark, designed by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. The facility, which features visible pipelines, continues to produce half of the world’s insulin.
Novo Nordisk production plant in Kalundborg

Novo Nordisk production plant in Kalundborg

Addressing new unmet needs

1970s
Both companies pursued innovation within hormone products, including oral contraceptives. In 1973, Nordisk marketed the company’s first human growth hormone, paving the way for Novo Nordisk to become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of this therapy.
1970s

Addressing new unmet needs

Both companies pursued innovation within hormone products, including oral contraceptives. In 1973, Nordisk marketed the company’s first human growth hormone, paving the way for Novo Nordisk to become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of this therapy.

Engineering the insulin of tomorrow

Human Monocomponent insulin crystals seen through a microscope

In 1982, Novo marketed Human Monocomponent Insulin and, in 1987, the first human insulin products manufactured using genetically engineered yeast cells. ‘Human insulin’ is identical to the insulin produced by our bodies, is highly purified and can be produced in unlimited quantities to greatly expand access.

Engineering the insulin of tomorrow

In 1982, Novo marketed Human Monocomponent Insulin and, in 1987, the first human insulin products manufactured using genetically engineered yeast cells. ‘Human insulin’ is identical to the insulin produced by our bodies, is highly purified and can be produced in unlimited quantities to greatly expand access.

Human Monocomponent insulin crystals seen through a microscope

The Novo Syringe from 1925 and the first NovoPen® device from 1985

The Novo Syringe from 1925 and the first NovoPen® device from 1985

NovoPen® was launched as the first insulin pen device. Finally, people had a discrete and more accurate means of self-administering insulin when needed. Today, NovoPen® is a design icon and Novo Nordisk continues to pioneer delivery systems that improve quality of life and make managing chronic diseases easier.

NovoPen® was launched as the first insulin pen device. Finally, people had a discrete and more accurate means of self-administering insulin when needed. Today, NovoPen® is a design icon and Novo Nordisk continues to pioneer delivery systems that improve quality of life and make managing chronic diseases easier.
The Novo Syringe from 1925 and the first NovoPen® device from 1985

The Novo Syringe from 1925 and the first NovoPen® device from 1985

Dr Ulla Hedner

Dr. Ulla Hedner

New hope for rare bleeding disorders

1996
When Dr Ulla Hedner purified Factor VIIa, she needed a partner to help her produce this life-saving treatment. Novo approved her project in 1985 and the first effective treatment for people with hemophilia with inhibitors was launched in 1996, quickly becoming the gold standard of care for many rare bleeding disorders.
1996

New hope for rare bleeding disorders

When Dr Ulla Hedner purified Factor VIIa, she needed a partner to help her produce this life-saving treatment. Novo approved her project in 1985 and the first effective treatment for people with hemophilia with inhibitors was launched in 1996, quickly becoming the gold standard of care for many rare bleeding disorders.
Dr Ulla Hedner

Dr. Ulla Hedner

Improving care and access around the world

2000s
In response to a 2001 dispute over patent rights in South Africa, Novo Nordisk defined a long-term strategy to support access to care in the world’s poorest countries. This included the establishment of the World Diabetes Foundation (2002), the World Hemophilia Foundation (2005), and a differential insulin pricing policy for the least developed countries.
2000s

Improving care and access around the world

In response to a 2001 dispute over patent rights in South Africa, Novo Nordisk defined a long-term strategy to support access to care in the world’s poorest countries. This included the establishment of the World Diabetes Foundation (2002), the World Hemophilia Foundation (2005), and a differential insulin pricing policy for the least developed countries.

Changing the world by changing diabetes

2005
With the launch of Changing Diabetes® in 2005 Novo Nordisk cemented its commitment to ensuring better awareness and care for people living with diabetes. Changing Diabetes® in Children followed in 2009 to provide access to care and life-saving medicine for children with type 1 diabetes in low- and middle-income countries.
2005

Changing the world by changing diabetes

With the launch of Changing Diabetes® in 2005 Novo Nordisk cemented its commitment to ensuring better awareness and care for people living with diabetes. Changing Diabetes® in Children followed in 2009 to provide access to care and life-saving medicine for children with type 1 diabetes in low- and middle-income countries.

Our values – the Novo Nordisk Way

2011
More than ten years after the launch of the Novo Nordisk Way of Management, which set out the vision and policies that apply to all employees worldwide, the new Novo Nordisk Way was launched with an emphasis on the company’s history and values.
2011

Our values – the Novo Nordisk Way

More than ten years after the launch of the Novo Nordisk Way of Management, which set out the vision and policies that apply to all employees worldwide, the new Novo Nordisk Way was launched with an emphasis on the company’s history and values.

Taking on the rise of serious chronic diseases

Mexico City

Mexico City

Prevention came into focus in 2014 with Cities Changing Diabetes, a public-private partnership addressing the role of urban life in the rise of chronic disease. In 2021, our efforts expanded with a UNICEF partnership that is working to prevent childhood overweight and obesity by creating healthier environments for children.

Taking on the rise of serious chronic diseases

Prevention came into focus in 2014 with Cities Changing Diabetes, a public-private partnership addressing the role of urban life in the rise of chronic disease. In 2021, our efforts expanded with a UNICEF partnership that is working to prevent childhood overweight and obesity by creating healthier environments for children.
Mexico City

Mexico City

Strategies for a healthier future

2020
With the launch of our Defeat Diabetes social responsibility strategy in 2020, we are focusing our efforts and partnerships on improving prevention, expanding access to care and driving innovation to improve lives. Our zero environmental impact strategy, Circular for Zero, was launched in 2019 to ensure we also address the health of our planet.
2020

Strategies for a healthier future

With the launch of our Defeat Diabetes social responsibility strategy in 2020, we are focusing our efforts and partnerships on improving prevention, expanding access to care and driving innovation to improve lives. Our zero environmental impact strategy, Circular for Zero, was launched in 2019 to ensure we also address the health of our planet.

Driving change in 2022 and beyond

©UNICEF México / Balam-Ha Carillo

©UNICEF México / Balam-Ha Carillo

The future holds the promise of innovations that will bring greater flexibility and a more holistic approach to the management of serious chronic diseases. Next generation treatments, new digital health solutions, transformational cell therapies and even the hope for curative therapies someday are all part of our efforts to defeat serious chronic diseases. Together with our partners, we are committed to driving change for better health – in our environment, in our laboratories, in our health systems and in our communities.

Driving change in 2022 and beyond

The future holds the promise of innovations that will bring greater flexibility and a more holistic approach to the management of serious chronic diseases. Next generation treatments, new digital health solutions, transformational cell therapies and even the hope for curative therapies someday are all part of our efforts to defeat serious chronic diseases. Together with our partners, we are committed to driving change for better health – in our environment, in our laboratories, in our health systems and in our communities.
©UNICEF México / Balam-Ha Carillo

©UNICEF México / Balam-Ha Carillo

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