Novo Nordisk has sent out the first batch of bulk insulin from a new facility at its site in Kalundborg, Denmark, that is producing more than a third of the world's supply. The first batch from the facility covers the insulin requirement of all 70,000 insulin-dependent diabetics in Denmark for one year.
Novo has invested around DKr2.5 billion (€337m) in the Insulin Bulk Plant, the largest capital investment in the company's history. The idea behind the facility was to improve the efficiency of insulin manufacturing and so reduce costs, and the importance to Novo is clear. Last year, diabetes care products accounted for approximately 70% of the company's total turnover of DKr25.2 billion, with the lion's share of this total coming from its insulin franchise.
Moreover, the incidence of diabetes in has been rising at an alarming rate in recent years. There are currently around 150 million people with the disease worldwide, but this figure is expected to double over the next 25 years, far outstripping population growth, and ensuring a continuing string demand for insulin products.
Previously, the individual process stages were undertaken by separate factories, and Novo describes the new plant as "a 'superhighway' with six factories in one, combining all the processes in insulin production, from fermentation to purified insulin crystals, under one roof".
There are two production lines in the IBP, consisting of a fermentation plant and a recovery and purification unit. In future, IBP will be the main supplier of insulin and insulin analogues to Novo's finishing facilities.
Meantime, Novo has also broken ground on yet another facility in Kalundborg for the purification of insulin analogues. The new purification facility represents an investment of more than DKr800 million and is scheduled to become operational in 2005. The facility will double the company's capacity for the production of the new, long-acting insulin analogue Levemir (insulin detemir), which is currently under review by the regulatory authorities in Europe and the US.