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.

Learn about insulin's Canadian heritage 

Explore the journey

Insulin 100 years timeline
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.
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.

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.
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

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
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

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
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.

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.
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

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
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.

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 – 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.

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
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.

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
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.

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.
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.

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
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.

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
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.

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
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.

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.
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.

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
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 the USA.

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.
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