Novozymes' history

Explore our heritage, from 1921 to the present


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


Novo introduces special child allowances for employees with children.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


Novo introduces a five-day working week.


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


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.


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.


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..


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.


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

Novo shares are listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.


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


Novo sets up an environmental department.


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


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


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.


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.


Novo in Davis, California, is inaugurated.


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.


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


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®.


Novo publishes its first social report.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.