Gene technology ethics

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living cells or organisms which have been genetically modified for research or to produce specific pharmaceutical substances. A gene coding for a recombinant protein is inserted into a DNA molecule carrying all the genetic elements necessary for the cell to produce the protein of interest. The assembled DNA carrying the genetic codes for the therapeutic protein is then inserted into the cells, enabling them to produce the recombinant protein.

NNPC2J0046 CPiH Innovation concept Photoshoot-OOP only;Novo Nordisk; New product Commercialization (NPC);Patrick Bosak; Oct 3-9; scientists/employees in their lab in Copenhagen Malov and Soeborg; equipment; b-roll video, video interview; portraits on white

Ethical implications of gene technology

Genetic modification of cells and organisms presents a unique opportunity to increase the possibility of offering safe and efficacious medical help for patients.

The use of gene technology in biomedical research and the use of GMOs in the production of pharmaceuticals offer substantial benefits to the quality of products, the environment and opportunities for the identification of new treatment concepts for patients.

Our position on gene technology

1 Contained use of gene technology
We find that the contained use of gene technology is an important tool in the identification, development, and production of pharmaceuticals for patients. These pharmaceuticals could not otherwise be provided in sufficient quantity or quality.

2 Use of GMOs
We only use GMOs in the lowest risk category for production and the final products do not contain genetically modified cells or genes.

3 Antibiotic resistance genes
We use production strains without antibiotic resistance genes whenever technically possible and practically feasible.

4 Accidental release of GMOs
We recognise the concern about accidental release of GMOs to the environment and has implemented appropriate measures to ensure compliance with regulations set by the authorities.

5 Regulation and public concerns 
We support the proper regulation of the use of gene technology and the principle that public concerns are adequately addressed.

6 Precautionary principle 
We apply the Precautionary Principle in the use of gene technology by conducting risk assessments prior to use. 

7 International standards 
We actively participate in the development of relevant international standards for gene technology. 

8 Transparency and openness 
We support transparency and openness in relation to the use of gene technology and continues to report publicly on our use of the technology.

Gene technology ethics

“The genetically modified cells in our production are created in a laboratory and only intended for production in a protected and controlled environment. This means that the cells are very weak. It will take a number of very unusual incidents for our GMOs to survive in nature.”

Asser Sloth Andersen
M.Sc. in molecular biology
Novo Nordisk

 

Novo Nordisk uses gene technology and GMOs in the research and production of pharmaceuticals. The application of gene technology enables us to produce a variety of biologically active proteins in large quantities, for instance various types of insulin for the treatment of diabetes, hormones for the treatment of growth disorders, and blood clotting factors for the treatment of haemophilia.

Novo Nordisk continuously aims at reducing any uncertainties and at developing additional precautionary approaches. We follow best practices and adhere to all regulations to eliminate and manage risks related to GMOs.

The GMOs in use for research and production at Novo Nordisk are mainly microorganisms (i.e. fungi and bacteria) and mammalian cells.

Novo Nordisk's production is based on GMOs in a contained environment. This means that all substances and fluids containing GMOs are kept in closed pipes and tanks throughout the entire production process. After the first cultivation step using GMOs, the product of interest is separated from the production organisms in a multi-step downstream purification process, which ensures complete removal of the GMOs or fragments thereof, including residual DNA.

For production, Novo Nordisk uses GMOs in the lowest risk category where there is no known risk to humans or to the environment. Equally, in research Novo Nordisk strives to use the lowest possible risk category of GMOs.

Potential risks involved in the application of gene technology are thoroughly assessed at Novo Nordisk.

Risk assessments are carried out prior to the use of GMOs for both research and production purposes, to remain compliant with regulations and the high Novo Nordisk standards.

Our contained use of approved GMOs for research and production is based on more than 25 years of risk assessments and safety records. No damage to human health or the environment has ever been recorded.

Over the years, we have developed modern insulins based on a new yeast strain, producing more product from each yeast cell.

This has enabled us to reduce the consumption of water, energy and raw materials per produced unit.

The main waste product is an organic material known as yeast sludge, which is recycled as raw material for biogas generation.

Download our brochure about gene technology in medicine development and production.