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Novo Nordisk

Home of the world's top performing CEO

Sector: Futurehealth

Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with more than 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. It's innovation is patient-centric, focused on what it can be best at, and delivered by one of the world's most sustainable companies.

The world’s top-performing CEO, according to Harvard Business Review, is Lars Rebien  Sørensen. Not a familiar name in the business media, and he doesn’t immediately strike you as a top business leader when you meet him. The CEO of the Danish pharmaceutical giant is friendly, laid back and quiet. Certainly not your big business stereotype.

When exploring how this mild-mannered, bespectacled executive landed the top spot, HBR reflected “It’s partly due to his company’s fortuitous decision years ago to focus almost exclusively on diabetes treatment. The runaway global growth of the disease has driven up the company’s sales and stock price.”

But his standing also reflects Novo Nordisk’s deep engagement with social and environmental issues, which now factor in to our calculations. “Corporate social responsibility is nothing but maximizing the value of your company over a long period,” says Sørensen, who has been with the company for 33 years. “In the long term, social and environmental issues become financial issues.”

Behind Novo Nordisk lies a story about two Danish firms – Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium and Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium. Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium was founded by Hans Christian Hagedorn, August Krogh and August Kongsted in 1923 in Copenhagen.

In 1922, August Krogh and his wife Marie Krogh travelled to the US. The couple had heard reports of people with diabetes being treated with insulin – a hormone discovered in 1921 by two Canadians, Frederick Banting and Charles Best. Marie Krogh was a doctor herself and also had type 2 diabetes. The couple returned to Denmark with permission to manufacture and sell insulin in Scandinavia. With the economic help from August Kongsted – the owner of Leo Pharmaceutical Products – Insulin Leo was marketed in 1923.

When Krogh and Hagedorn started manufacturing insulin, they hired Thorvald Pedersen and his brother Harald Pedersen to build the machines for insulin production. However, Thorvald Pedersen was fired from Nordisk and the two brothers decided to try to manufacture insulin themselves. Thorvald and Harald Pedersen managed to produce a stable liquid insulin and marketed Insulin Novo in 1925.. The brothers named their firm Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium. Over the next decades the products were further improved, e.g. with focus on longer effect; nevertheless, there were still challenges to be met, and in the 1970s the new goal was to produce human insulin meaning that Novo would no longer depend on animal pancreases. In 1982, Novo succeeded and launched the world’s first insulin preparation identical to human insulin.

Nordisk marketed a genetically engineered human growth hormone in 1988 and Novo Nordisk is market leading in the world today in this area and introduced the world’s first liquid growth hormone in a pen system in 1999.

In 1989, Novo Industri A/S (Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium) and Nordisk Gentofte A/S (Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium) merged to become Novo Nordisk A/S, the world’s largest producer of insulin with headquarters in Bagsværd, Copenhagen. In 2000 the company demerged into NovoZymes A/S and Novo Nordisk A/S. Research into bleeding disorders lead to the foundation of The Novo Nordisk Haemophilia Foundation in 2005 striving to improve access to care for people with haemophilia and allied bleeding disorders. In 2015, the company announced it would collaborate with Ablynx, using its nanobody technology to develop at least one new drug candidate

Today, Novo Nordisk is headquartered in Bagsvaerd, Denmark, with production facilities in eight countries, and affiliates or offices in 75 countries. It employs more than 40,000 people globally, and markets its products in 180 countries. Key products include diabetes care medications and devices. It is also involved with homeostasis management, growth hormone therapy and hormone replacement therapy.

The Novo Nordisk logo is the Apis bull, one of the sacred animals of ancient Egypt.

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