Insulin 100

A century of innovation in diabetes care

In 1921, a team of Canadian researchers discovered the molecule insulin and ignited a century of ground-breaking innovations in diabetes care that have since saved countless lives.

Today, we are fortunate to have better medicines than ever, yet the number of people living with diabetes continues to grow at an alarming rate, placing a substantial burden on individuals, families and societies.

Explore the journey

Insulin 100 years timeline

Insulin: A breakthrough innovation

Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto.

Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto.

Researchers in Toronto successfully extract insulin from a dog’s pancreas and test its effect, bringing hope for the first time to people with diabetes.

Insulin: A breakthrough innovation

Researchers in Toronto successfully extract insulin from a dog’s pancreas and test its effect, bringing hope for the first time to people with diabetes.
Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto.

Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto.

First life saved by insulin

Before and after images of a child with type 1 diabetes.

Before and after images of a child with type 1 diabetes.

Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old boy who weighed just over 29 kilos, becomes the first person with diabetes to be treated with insulin. After receiving injections of Banting and Best’s extract (described as a thick brown muck), Leonard’s blood sugar drops.

First life saved by insulin

Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old boy who weighed just over 29 kilos, becomes the first person with diabetes to be treated with insulin. After receiving injections of Banting and Best’s extract (described as a thick brown muck), Leonard’s blood sugar drops.
Before and after images of a child with type 1 diabetes.

Before and after images of a child with type 1 diabetes.

August and Marie Krogh

August and Marie Krogh

Insulin production begins in Scandinavia

1923
Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium commercialises the production of insulin after the extraction and purification technique is brought back to Denmark from Canada by August and Marie Krogh. With insulin, a person diagnosed with diabetes now has a dramatically improved life expectancy.
1923

Insulin production begins in Scandinavia

Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium commercialises the production of insulin after the extraction and purification technique is brought back to Denmark from Canada by August and Marie Krogh. With insulin, a person diagnosed with diabetes now has a dramatically improved life expectancy.
August and Marie Krogh

August and Marie Krogh

Novo Nordisk insulin production in the 1930s.

Hans Christian Hagedorn

Hans Christian Hagedorn

NPH insulin decreases the burden of treatment

1946
Hans Christian Hagedorn discovers NPH (neutral protamine Hagedorn) insulin, which prolongs the effects of insulin and means that people with diabetes can have fewer injections.
1946

NPH insulin decreases the burden of treatment

Hans Christian Hagedorn discovers NPH (neutral protamine Hagedorn) insulin, which prolongs the effects of insulin and means that people with diabetes can have fewer injections.
Hans Christian Hagedorn

Hans Christian Hagedorn

Novo Nordisk insulin production in the 1940s.

A new era in diabetes understanding

It becomes clear to researchers that there are several types of diabetes, and that type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent. Medicine innovation is now focused on addressing the distinct characteristics of the different types of diabetes and developing medicines specifically for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

A new era in diabetes understanding

It becomes clear to researchers that there are several types of diabetes, and that type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent. Medicine innovation is now focused on addressing the distinct characteristics of the different types of diabetes and developing medicines specifically for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Ames Reflectance Meter

Ames Reflectance Meter

Portable glucose meter simplifies diabetes monitoring

1970s
Practical self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) is now possible with portable glucose meters, making it easier for people living with diabetes to manage their condition by using test strips at home.
1970s

Portable glucose meter simplifies diabetes monitoring

Practical self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) is now possible with portable glucose meters, making it easier for people living with diabetes to manage their condition by using test strips at home.
Ames Reflectance Meter

Ames Reflectance Meter

Laboratory in Bagsværd, Denmark.

Laboratory in Bagsværd, Denmark.

HbA1C in clinical practice

1970s
HbA1C – the average blood glucose level during the past 120 days – becomes the primary means of assessing blood glucose management and enables physicians to critically assess the impact of lifestyle changes and medication on long-term health outcomes.
1970s

HbA1C in clinical practice

HbA1C – the average blood glucose level during the past 120 days – becomes the primary means of assessing blood glucose management and enables physicians to critically assess the impact of lifestyle changes and medication on long-term health outcomes.
Laboratory in Bagsværd, Denmark.

Laboratory in Bagsværd, Denmark.

First commercially available human insulin

1982
Insulin becomes the first therapeutic protein to be created using recombinant DNA technology. This ‘human insulin’ is identical to the insulin produced by our bodies, is highly purified and can be produced in unlimited quantities, greatly expanding access for people with diabetes.
1982

First commercially available human insulin

Insulin becomes the first therapeutic protein to be created using recombinant DNA technology. This ‘human insulin’ is identical to the insulin produced by our bodies, is highly purified and can be produced in unlimited quantities, greatly expanding access for people with diabetes.
Patient with an insulin pump.

Patient with an insulin pump.

The first “mini” insulin pump

1983
First developed in the 1960s, insulin pumps become widely available in the 1980s, ensuring people with diabetes can benefit from having their insulin released as and when required throughout the day. In the future, many will even work in concert with continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGM).
1983

The first “mini” insulin pump

First developed in the 1960s, insulin pumps become widely available in the 1980s, ensuring people with diabetes can benefit from having their insulin released as and when required throughout the day. In the future, many will even work in concert with continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGM).
Patient with an insulin pump.

Patient with an insulin pump.

Easier and safer management – the first insulin pen

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

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

The first insulin pen improves quality of life for people living with diabetes by eliminating the need for cumbersome glass syringes. Finally, people have a discrete and precise means of self-administering the right dose of insulin when needed.

Easier and safer management – the first insulin pen

The first insulin pen improves quality of life for people living with diabetes by eliminating the need for cumbersome glass syringes. Finally, people have a discrete and precise means of self-administering the right dose of insulin when needed.
The Novo Syringe from 1925 and the first NovoPen® device from 1985.

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

Introduction of first generation insulin analogues

1996
Insulin analogues – a range of rapid-acting, long-acting and premixed formulations – are created to more closely mimic the body’s natural pattern of releasing insulin. Analogue insulins have modifications that ensure more predictable absorption, making it easier for people to plan around mealtimes, avoid low blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of weight gain.
1996

Introduction of first generation insulin analogues

Insulin analogues – a range of rapid-acting, long-acting and premixed formulations – are created to more closely mimic the body’s natural pattern of releasing insulin. Analogue insulins have modifications that ensure more predictable absorption, making it easier for people to plan around mealtimes, avoid low blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of weight gain.
InDuo combination insulin delivery device and blood sugar monitor from 2001.

InDuo combination insulin delivery device and blood sugar monitor from 2001.

First CGM system approved

1999
The first continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device for reading blood glucose levels is approved by the FDA, bringing hope to people with diabetes who want to gain more control over their health.
1999

First CGM system approved

The first continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device for reading blood glucose levels is approved by the FDA, bringing hope to people with diabetes who want to gain more control over their health.
InDuo combination insulin delivery device and blood sugar monitor from 2001.

InDuo combination insulin delivery device and blood sugar monitor from 2001.

Beyond insulin: new treatment options for type 2 diabetes

2005
Treatment options take type 2 diabetes care beyond blood sugar control with the introduction of GLP-1 agonists and, later, SGLT-2 inhibitors. The GLP-1 class of medicines reduce blood sugar levels by enhancing the natural secretion of insulin while also reducing appetite and food intake.
2005

Beyond insulin: new treatment options for type 2 diabetes

Treatment options take type 2 diabetes care beyond blood sugar control with the introduction of GLP-1 agonists and, later, SGLT-2 inhibitors. The GLP-1 class of medicines reduce blood sugar levels by enhancing the natural secretion of insulin while also reducing appetite and food intake.

Novo Nordisk R&D liraglutide GLP-1, 2008.

Introduction of new generation insulin analogues

Ayşe Naz Baykal has type 1 diabetes and lives in Turkey.

Ayşe Naz Baykal has type 1 diabetes and lives in Turkey.

With their enhanced profiles, new generation insulin analogues offer greater flexibility and reduce the daily burden of diabetes care. Ultra-long action insulins reduce the number of injections and the risk of hypoglycaemia by releasing the medication very slowly, while ultra-fast action insulins offer convenience by reducing the need for planning around mealtimes.

Introduction of new generation insulin analogues

With their enhanced profiles, new generation insulin analogues offer greater flexibility and reduce the daily burden of diabetes care. Ultra-long action insulins reduce the number of injections and the risk of hypoglycaemia by releasing the medication very slowly, while ultra-fast action insulins offer convenience by reducing the need for planning around mealtimes.
Ayşe Naz Baykal has type 1 diabetes and lives in Turkey.

Ayşe Naz Baykal has type 1 diabetes and lives in Turkey.

Discovering and developing new protein and peptide-based therapies.

Discovering and developing new protein and peptide-based therapies.

First oral GLP-1 treatment for type 2 diabetes

2019
A major breakthrough that further expands treatment options and reduces barriers, this innovative tablet eliminates the need for injections with GLP-1 – a welcome relief for many people living with type 2 diabetes.
2019

First oral GLP-1 treatment for type 2 diabetes

A major breakthrough that further expands treatment options and reduces barriers, this innovative tablet eliminates the need for injections with GLP-1 – a welcome relief for many people living with type 2 diabetes.
Discovering and developing new protein and peptide-based therapies.

Discovering and developing new protein and peptide-based therapies.

Mandy Marquardt has type 1 diabetes, rides for Team Novo Nordisk and lives in USA.

2021 and beyond

What’s next?

As we look toward the future, we see new treatment and device innovations that will bring greater flexibility and a more holistic approach to diabetes care. Once-weekly basal insulins, glucose-sensitive and cardio-protective insulins, next generation oral treatments, new digital health solutions, transformational stem-cell therapies and even the hope for curative treatment someday are all part of our effort to defeat diabetes.

2021 and beyond

What’s next?

As we look toward the future, we see new treatment and device innovations that will bring greater flexibility and a more holistic approach to diabetes care. Once-weekly basal insulins, glucose-sensitive and cardio-protective insulins, next generation oral treatments, new digital health solutions, transformational stem-cell therapies and even the hope for curative treatment someday are all part of our effort to defeat diabetes.

The story of 100 years of diabetes care innovation

A life-saving discovery turns 100 years – What’s next?

See how insulin treatment and diabetes care have evolved in the past 100 years, and how continued innovation is still imperative to address the significant challenges that diabetes presents to individuals and society.