Our history

The making of a biotech powerhouse

zymers eating lunch in the old days

With a heritage stretching back to the 1920s, we have a century of experience in proteins. Since then, we’ve grown into the world’s leading biotech powerhouse. Our business is industrial enzymes and microorganisms. Today we serve 30-plus industries across 130 markets with enzymatic, microbial, advanced protein and digital solutions.

Scroll down to find out more about the making of a biotech powerhouse.

Zymers in lab

2022

Support for emergency relief efforts and refugees in response to the war in Ukraine, through the Novo Nordisk Foundation and additional donations. Present at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to let world leaders know about the potential of biotechnology in sustainable growth.

2021

Launch of new corporate strategy: Unlocking growth – powered by biotech. Recognition of our commitment to sustainability with award of Terra Carta Seal by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. As Denmark aims to test more people for the Covid-19 virus, Novozymes and the Novo Nordisk Foundation donate essential equipment and knowledge to a new test facility established at The Serum Institute in Denmark. Transfer of a liquid handler from Novozymes’ R&D facilities expands testing speed and capacity. Acquisition of Synergia, Microbiome labs and the data Science platform of Biota. Product launches include Formea® Prime, Pristine® and Innova® Quantum.

2020

Peder Holk Nielsen steps down as CEO after 35 years in the company and Ester Baiget appointed new President and CEO as of February 1st, 2020. Acquisition of PrecisionBiotics to advance Novozymes human health business. Our Kalundborg enzyme fermentation plant – built in 1969 and the world’s largest – switches to 100% renewable energy. Novozymes turns 20.

Product launches include Innova® Fit, Saphera® Fiber, Microvia®, Fiberex®, Gluzyme® Fortis, BioFresh® 4+ and Fortiva® Hemi. Expansion of Taegro® into European and Latin American markets in collaboration with Syngenta.

2019

Announcement of updated strategy: Better Business with Biology. Named most innovative company in Denmark by European Patent Office. The BioAg Alliance ends in its current form, as Novozymes and Bayer continue their partnership in a broader and more flexible setup. Announcement of partnerships with Univar Solutions and UPL. Opening of Innovation Campus in Lyngby, Denmark. Product launches include Fortiva®, Innova® Force and Fiberlife®.

2018

Novozymes named among the world’s top 3 best employers by Science Magazine.  Opening of Innovation and Technology Center in Turkey. Product launches include Innova® Lift, Innova® Drive and Balancius, with our partner DSM.

2017

Announcement of collaboration with Boeheringer Ingelheim in probiotics for poultry. Henrik Gürtler steps down as Chairman of Board of Directors and replaced by Jørgen Buhl Rasmussen. Product launches include Spirizyme® T Portfolio, Palmora® and BioPrep® Fusion.

2016

Biopharma division becomes an independent company, Albumedix. Product launches include Progress® Uno, Amplify® Prime, Frontia® Fiberwash, Quara® LowP, Saphera® and Alterion® with our partner Adisseo. Launch of Acceleron® B-300 SAT - a microbial solution that helps boost corn yields - with Monsanto. Since replaced by B360 LCO technology, which is available from our partner Bayer.

2015

Announcement of new strategy: Partnering for Impact” and company purpose: “Together we find biological answers for better lives in a growing world – Let’s rethink tomorrow”

2014

Provision of enzymatic solutions to cellulosic ethanol plants in the Americas and Europe. Product launches include Medley®.

2013

Appointment of Peder Holk Nielsen as CEO. The world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant opens in Crescentino, Italy using Novozymes enzymes. Novozymes and Monsanto come together to create The BioAg Alliance, to develop and bring more sustainable BioAg solutions to farmers. 

2012

Opening of enzymes for biofuels plant in Nebraska, U.S. Expansion of position in biocontrol segment with acquisition of Natural Industries. Global commercial agreement with Syngenta to market and distribute Taegro®, a microbial-based biofungicide.

2011

Acquisition of EMD/Merck Crop BioScience. Opening of new hyaluronic acid plant in China.

2010

Acquisition of Brazilian BioAg company Turfal. Product launches include Cellic®.

2008

2007

President Bush visits U.S. headquarters. First step into BioAg with acquisition of Philom Bios.

2006

Acquisition of GroPep and Delta marks the start of our biopharma business. 

2005

Launch of integrity principles to help employees deal with issues such as bribery. Recognition of our work with ADM on low trans fats and oils with award of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

2001

Acquisition of Sybron marks the start of our microorganism business in America. Contract with the U.S. government to develop enzymes to convert biomass into low-carbon fuel. 

2000

Novo Nordisk splits into three companies: Novo Nordisk A/S, Novozymes A/S and Novo A/S. Novozymes A/S is headed by CEO Steen Riisgaard. For the first time, customers can buy enzymes online via Novozymes’ new website.

1999

Novo Nordisk publishes its first social report.

1998

Launch of Kannase® detergent enzyme. Opening of enzyme factory in Tianjin, China.

1996

Launch of  DeniLite®, the first enzyme for bleaching denim. 

1994

Publication of environmental report – the first in Denmark. Novo Nordisk is also one of the first companies to institute a Triple Bottom Line approach.

1992

Opening of Novo Nordisk in California, U.S. 

1989

Novo and Nordisk merge to become Novo Nordisk. Opening of factory in Brazilian.

1987

Launch of Lipolase® enzyme for detergents, the first Novo made with genetically-engineered microorganisms.

1985

Novo supplying about 60% of the world’s detergent enzymes.

1981

Becomes the first Scandinavian company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1979

Establishment of environmental department.

1974

Female employees demand equal pay for the first time. Novo shares are listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.

1971

Publication of studies showing that detergent enzymes are not a risk to consumers. U.S. health authorities determine that detergent enzymes are safe to use. Development of dust-free enzyme preparations, reducing factory workers’ allergy risk.

1969

Arne Jacobsen–designed factory in Kalundborg, Denmark opens. Launch of several new and improved enzyme products for detergents. The starch industry becomes a major customer. Publication of article questioning the safety of enzymes in detergents published in British medical journal "The Lancet", garnering a lot of media attention in the U.S. This also spreads to Europe, leading to a drop in sales.

1965

Some production moved to new facilities in Bagsvaerd, Denmark. Tripling of workforce, about half of which are women. 

1963

Novo’s first fermentation-produced laundry detergent enzyme, Alcalase.

1960

Launch of Novo Enzym for the detergent industry.

1957

Introduction of a five-day work week. 

1952

Launch of Novo’s first microbial enzyme, Termozym®, followed by Aquazym® in 1954.

Arne Jacobsen designs the “Ant” chair for Novo’s new canteen. The chair is still on sale to this day.

1951

Establishment of the Novo Foundation to support scientific, social, and humanitarian causes.

1946

Novo files for patent of the recovery of trypsin. This is Novo’s first ever patent application on an enzyme.

1945

Trypsin production begins 

1941

Novo scientists extract both insulin and trypsin from the same pancreatic glands. Previously, insulin extraction destroyed trypsin. This cuts expenses and reduces global demand for pancreases. The discovery also leads to trypsin crystals, Novo’s first enzymatic product, used for cleaning leather hides before tanning. Novo scientists also succeed in using bacteria to produce amylase, for textile desizing.

1940

Introduction of special child allowances for employees with children. 

1939

Thorvald Pedersen decides to expand the business into enzyme production.  

1935

Novo builds first factory. Located in Fuglebakken, Denmark, it’s designed by Arne Jacobsen.

1925

Brothers Harald and Thorvald Pedersen former employees of Nordisk form their own company, Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium. Their company and Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium would remain rivals until their eventual merger in 1989.

1923

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

1921

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

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zymers in front of office