Novozymes' history

Explore the Novozymes history - a history of biotechnology development.

1921
Canadians Banting and Best discover how to extract insulin from animals for human use. 

1924

The first experiments to extract insulin from animals for human use are carried out in the cellar of the Pedersen brothers on Fuglebakkevej in Denmark. 

1925

Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium is founded by the brothers Harald and Thorvald Pedersen. 

1935

Novo builds its first factory at Fuglebakken in Denmark. The architect is Arne Jacobsen, one of Denmark's most successful architects and designers.

1939

Thorvald Pedersen decides to expand the business by producing enzymes.

The frozen pancreas used for insulin production also contained enzymeshowever, when extracting the insulin, it was believed that youde-activated” the enzymes. So the residue after insulin extraction was not used for anything except feed. However, most pancreas in the world at this point in time were not used for insulin but for treatment of leather. So – looking at the supply problems of pancreas owing to WW II – Thorvald decided to  find out if it was not possible to use the same pancreas for both insulin extraction and enzymes production. This would cut expenses and lessen the demand for pancreas worldwide.

1940
Novo introduces special child allowances for employees with children.

1941

Trypsin crystals: Novo’s first enzyme product. Trypsin is extracted from the pancreas after insulin extraction and used for cleaning hides prior to tanning.

In the 1940s it was proved it wrong that enzymes were destroyed during insulin extraction and this lead to the development of a method to extract both insulin and enzymes from the same pancreas.

In the 1940s sales of trypsin were going brilliantly and Novo therefore decided to market yet another enzyme extracted from the pancreas. This was amylase, which is used in the textile industry for desizing. When production was about to start, an employee got an uncommonly good idea. He suggested making amylase by fermentation, i.e. finding a bacterial strain that could produce the enzyme in a fermentation process. The idea was an obvious one since Novo was already using fermentation technology to produce penicillin. The company’s researchers succeeded in getting bacteria to produce amylase, and that event heralded Novo’s immense success with fermentation of enzymes.

1945
Enzyme production begins in the trypsin cellar at the Fuglebakken factory.

1947
Svend Frederiksen discovers a way of extracting both insulin and enzymes from the same pancreas. The method is patented in the same year.

1951
The Novo Foundation is set up to support scientific, social, and humanitarian causes, and to provide the best possible protection for the company via the new company structure.

1952

Termozym® is Novo’s first microbial enzyme, followed by Aquazym® in 1954. Both are used in the textile industry to remove starch from fabrics.

Arne Jacobsen designs the “Ant” chair for Novo’s new canteen. To this day the chair is marketed globally.

Enzymes are a success: they are efficient, flexible, precise and include a good economic angle. They would later also prove capable of replacing highly polluting processes with environmentally friendly processes.
 
1957

Novo introduces a five-day working week.

1960

Novo Enzym is launched for use in the detergent industry, and the first pilot plant is built at Fuglebakken near Copenhagen.

1963

Alcalase is Novo’s first detergent enzyme produced by fermentation.

In 1960 Novo’s researchers accidentally found themselves in possession of a remarkable enzyme. To their astonishment, they found that the enzyme had all the properties which detergent manufacturers were looking for. It could remove obstinate stains from blood and sweat and acted without problems with other substances in the detergent. The new enzyme product was named Alcalase® and was Novo’s first detergent enzyme produced by fermentation.

1965

Part of Novo’s production is moved to new buildings erected on a 122,000 m2 plot of land in Bagsvaerd, Denmark.

To celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary, employees are given three days of paid holiday. In the same year, Novo triples its workforce – about half are women.

1969

Novo builds a factory in Kalundborg, Denmark. 

During the 1960s Novo launched a number of new and improved enzyme products, not just for detergents, but for many other industrial applications as well. The starch industry became a particularly big customer, using enzymes to convert starch into sugar. To keep up with the growing demand for industrial enzymes, Novo’s management decided on a substantial increase in fermentation capacity. The first step was a new enzyme plant in Kalundborg, Denmark, inaugurated in 1969.

Medical journal The Lancet publishes an article questioning the safety of enzymes in detergents. 
 

The Lancet article said that some workers at a British detergent factory had developed allergy after inhaling concentrated enzyme dust. The article attracted massive media attention in the US due to fears that users of detergents could also develop allergies.

1971

Studies show that detergent enzymes do not present a risk to consumers. Nevertheless, the media attacks on detergent enzymes spread to Europe, leading to a drop in sales and a reduction in Novo’s workforce from 2,100 to 1,700.

In November the US health authorities determine that detergent enzymes are in fact safe to use, and the media storm subsides. In 1972 sales go up again. 

To reduce the risk of workers at detergent factories developing allergies, Novo developed dust-free enzyme preparations.

1974

Novo's female employees demand equal pay for the first time.

Novo’s shares are listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.

1975

Brazil launches a large-scale project to produce fuel alcohol as an alternative to expensive oil.

1979

Novo sets up an environmental department. Studies of obnoxious smells are one of the first tasks.

1981

Novo becomes the first Scandinavian company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1985

In the mid 1980s Novo supplies about 60% of the total world consumption of detergent enzymes.

1987

Novo launches Lipolase® - the first fat-splitting enzyme for detergents manufactured with genetically engineered microorganisms.

Although Novo had developed a wide range of efficient detergent enzymes, there was still one serious problem frustrating the company’s researchers: They had not yet succeeded in finding an enzyme that could dissolve greasy stains. The breakthrough came in the autumn 1987. Novo’s researchers became the first in the world to develop a bacterial strain that could produce large quantities of a fat-splitting enzyme. The enzyme was given the name Lipolase®. This was Novo’s first genetically engineered enzyme product and it reached the market just four months after the enzyme researchers’ triumph in the laboratory. Novo had managed yet again to develop an enzyme with desirable properties, and before long Lipolase® was being used in a wide range of detergents all over the world.

1989
Danish companies Novo and Nordisk Gentofte merge to become Novo Nordisk.

The Brazilian factory is inaugurated. Only 18 months after the land was purchased, the first enzyme is produced and sold.

Bagsvaerd’s kindergarten celebrates its 15th anniversary. It was one of the first company kindergartens in Denmark.

1992

Novo in Davis, California, is inaugurated.

1994

Novo becomes the first company in Denmark to issue an environmental report. Novo is also one of the first to implement the triple bottom line in a bid to balance financial, social, and environmental aspects.

During the 1990s the company starts issuing annual reports on social and environmental performance – in addition to the traditional annual report. The company thus started measuring what is called the "triple bottom line". In other words, the company’s activities are evaluated in terms of their social and environmental responsibility and impact and economic viability. In practical terms, triple bottom line (also known as "TBL")  accounting means expanding the traditional reporting framework to take into account ecological and social performance in addition to financial reporting. Today’s sustainabilty concept arises from the TBL reporting.

1996
DeniLite® is launched – the first enzyme in the world for bleaching denim in the textile industry.

1998

Kannase® is launched – a detergent enzyme for soft and cold water.

A new enzyme factory opens in Tianjin, China, enabling Chinese farmers to join Danish, American, and Brazilian farmers in receiving NovoGro®.

1999

Novo publishes its first social report.

2000

Novo is split into three independent companies: Novo Nordisk A/S, Novozymes A/S and Novo A/S.

For the first time customers can buy enzymes online via Novozymes’ new website.

2001

Novozymes acquires Sybron in Salem, USA. This marks the start of the microorganism business in the US.

Novozymes in Davis contracts with the US government to develop enzymes that can turn biomass into environmentally friendly fuel.

2004

Novozymes is awarded the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for work on enzymes to develop healthier oils and fats for use in food.

2005

Launch of six integrity principles to help individual employees to deal with issues such as bribery.

2006

Acquisition of Australian biopharma company GroPep and UK-based biotech company Delta. This marks the start of the biopharma business.

2007

President Bush visits Novozymes’ US headquarters and hosts a panel discussion on advancements in biofuels.

The business unit BioBusiness is formed consisting of microorganisms, biopolymers, and biopharmaceuticals.

The new business area, Biobusiness acquires Philom Bios, Canada, our first step into producing biological products for the agricultural market. In 2010 we acquire Brazilian bioagriculture company Turfal, and in 2011 also the bioag company EMD/Merck Crop BioScience (located in Milwaukee, the US, and Argentina).

2008          

Inauguration of the world’s largest enzyme fermentation facility in China, primarily with focus on products for the bioethanol industry.

2010          

Launch of Cellic® - the first commercially viable enzyme for production of biofuel from agricultural waste, enabling cellulosic biofuel as a competitive alternative to gasoline. 

2010/1
Acquisition of EMD/Merck Crop BioScience: The USD 283 million deal makes Novozymes a major player in biofertility solutions for agriculture. 

2011  
Inauguration of new hyaluronic acid plant in China. The plant represents an investment of more than DKK 300 million.

2012 
Inauguration of enzymes (for biofuels) plant in Blair, Nebraska.


2013
  
Peder Holk Nielsen takes over the reins as CEO when Steen Riisgaard retires.

The world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant opens inCrescentino, Italy – using Novozymes enzymes.

Novozymes teams up with Monsanto to provide bioagricultural solutions.