Novozymes' history

Explore our heritage, from 1921 to the present

1921

Canadians Frederick G. Banting and Charles Best discover how to extract insulin from animals to treat diabetes in humans.

1923

In March 1923 the first Danish patients are treated with insulin extracted from bovine pancreas, and that spring August Krogh and Dr. Hagedorn establish Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium.

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

Harald and Thorvald Pedersen design a special syringe – the Novo syringe – which patients can use to inject themselves with insulin. This was something new, as the Nordisk insulin was in tablet form and had to be dissolved and swallowed. The Pedersen brothers name their firm Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium.

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 and to find out if pancreas could be used for both insulin extraction and enzyme 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.

Novo's researchers succeeded in getting bacteria to produce amylase, used for desizing in the textile industry. 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.

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. It removed blood, sweat and other stains, and worked with other substances in the detergent.

1965

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

Novo triples its workforce, about half of which are women.

1969

Novo builds and inaugurates a factory in Kalundborg, Denmark.  

During the 1960s Novo launches several new and improved enzyme products for detergents and other industrial applications, with the starch industry becoming a major customer.

British medical journal The Lancet publishes an article questioning the safety of enzymes in detergents, garnering massive media attention in the U.S..

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.

Later in the year U.S. health authorities determine that detergent enzymes are in fact safe to use, and the media storm subsides. To reduce the risk of workers at detergent factories developing allergies, Novo develops dust-free enzyme preparations.

1974

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

Novo 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.

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. It was Novo’s first genetically engineered enzyme product and went from lab to market in just four months.

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.

1992

Novo in Davis, California, is inaugurated.

1994

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

The "triple bottom line" evaluates company activities for social and environmental responsibility, impact, and economic viability. This accounting method 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. Novozymes is headed by CEO Steen Riisgaard.

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

2001

Novozymes acquires Sybron in Salem, U.S. This marks the start of the microorganism business in the U.S.

Novozymes in Davis contracts with the U.S. 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 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’ U.S. headquarters and hosts a panel discussion on advancements in biofuels.

Novozymes acquires Philom Bios of Canada, a first step into producing biological products for the agricultural market.

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.

Acquisition of Brazilian bioagriculture company Turfal.

2011

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

Inauguration of new hyaluronic acid plant in China.

2012 

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

2013

Peder Holk Nielsen appointed as CEO.

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

 In a transformational alliance, Novozymes and Monsanto come together to create The BioAg Alliance, to develop and bring more sustainable bioagricultural solutions for farmers.

2014

The commercial production of cellulosic ethanol broadens globally, as Novozymes provides enzymatic solutions to plants in South and North America as well as in Europe.

The BioAg Alliance becomes fully operational, conducting more than 170,000 field trials in the U.S.

 Continuing to meet the needs of customers in emerging markets, Novozymes launches Medley®, innovative detergent blends that targets specific regional needs and conditions.