Shortly after the discovery of insulin by Banting and Best in 1921, Professor August Krogh (1874-1949), Nobel Laureate in Physiology,
and Dr. Hans Christian Hagedorn (1888-1971), a young diabetologist, obtained the rights from the discoverers in Toronto to produce
insulin for the diabetics in Scandinavia.
August Steenberg Krogh(1874-1949)
Hans Christian Hagedorn (1888-1971)
Thorvald and Harald Pederson
This formed the basis for the establishment of Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium in 1923. August Krogh, Hans Christian Hagedorn, and the
pharmacist August Kongsted obtained Royal Charters for the non-profit foundation Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium in 1926.
That same year, the Nordisk Insulin Foundation was inaugurated, to support research within physiology and endocrinology, especially
diabetes research in the Scandinavian countries. Meanwhile, in 1925, two brothers, Thorvald and Harald Pedersen, took up the competition
and started Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium.
The Steno Memorial Hospital, headed by Hans Christian Hagedorn, was created in 1932 by Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium in order to support diabetes treatment.
The hospital was named to honour Nicolaus Steno, in Danish Niels Steensen (1638-1686), a physician, scientist, and scholar, who made important contributions to science in fields as vastly different as Anatomy, Geology and Palaeontology, and later in his life became
a bishop. Steno was beatified in 1988.
In 1957, on the occasion of the Steno Memorial Hospital's 25th anniversary, the Steno Memorial Hospital Research Laboratory was created.
The research laboratory also housed the outpatient clinic for several years underlining the close relationship between the clinical activities
Headed by Dr. Jacob E. Poulsen (1907-1988), Chairman of the Board of the Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium until 1977, the research activities broadened to include not only clinical diabetes but also experimental studies related to the etiology and pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus.
In 1978 the research laboratory was established as a separate unit within the Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium, under the direction of Bruno
Hansen. To honour the name of a great scientist, a caring physician and an innovative industrialist, it was named the Hagedorn Research Laboratory. A second Director of Research, Åke Lernmark, was appointed a year later.
The clinical and basic research carried out at the Steno Memorial Hospital and the Hagedorn Research Laboratory was internationally
recognized in 1983 by the designation as a WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training on the Pathogenesis of Diabetes Mellitus.
Åke Lernmark was appointed Robert H. Williams Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA and left the Hagedorn Research Laboratory at the beginning of 1988.
A merger between Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium and Novo was approved in April, 1989 ending sixty-four years of competition, and a new
company, Novo Nordisk A/S, was formed. As a consequence of the merger between the two companies, the Hagedorn Research
Laboratory and the Steno Memorial Hospital became independent basic research component of the Novo Nordisk organization. In 1989,
Bruno Hansen left the Hagedorn Research Laboratory, and Dr. Jørn Nerup, chief physician at the Steno Memorial Hospital, became acting Director of Research from May, 1989 to August, 1990. On September 1, 1990, Dr. Pierre De Meyts became Director of Research.
The Hvidøre Hospital, associated with Novo before the merger, was merged with the Steno Memorial Hospital into the Steno Diabetes
Center. The research group of Dr. Oluf Pedersen, from the former Hvidøre Hospital, joined the Hagedorn Research Laboratory at the end
of 1990, bringing its expertise in the pathogenesis of NIDDM. The groups of Jørn Nerup and Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen, investigating the mechanisms of beta-cell destruction in IDDM, is also hosted at the Hagedorn. Thus, to this day, a close collaboration continues in the
area of diabetes with physicians and scientists at the Steno Diabetes Center. In 1992, the Hagedorn Research Laboratory was renamed Hagedorn Research Institute to emphasize its mandate as an independent and international institute devoted to forefront, interdisciplinary
Since 1995, the Hagedorn Research Institute is part of Health Care Discovery at Novo Nordisk A/S. To ensure a closer collaboration
between basic research and discovery, most Hagedorn scientists contributed time and expertise to Discovery projects.
In February 1999, Novo Nordisk’s Health Care Management decided as part of cost containment measures to decrease its level of
support to in-house basic research, and to downsize the Institute (currently a staff of about 45), which was refocused on islet cell developmental biology, receptor biology and pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes. Some of the staff scientists were fully integrated into
Discovery. Jens Høiriis Nielsen became full professor at the Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. The Hagedorn Research Institute commitment to interdisciplinary basic research, to the education of masters and Ph.D. students and to external funding agencies remained intact.
In May 2000, Dr. Ole Dragsbæk Madsen was appointed as Director of Research, with Dr. Palle Serup as Head of Department of
During the first decade after yr 2000 a mandate to explore the potential of stem cell based therapy of diabetes was executed. Through
the participation in competitive internationally funded consortia O.D. Madsen and P. Serup were successfully expanding the institute’s
activities to build and translate pancreas developmental biology into applied stem cell biology.
This is exemplified by being integral parts of: 1) The JDRF Center for Diabetes Therapy in Europe (2000-2004), 2) The Beta Cell Biology Consortium (NIH-funded, 2001-2013), and 3) BetaCellTherapy – an EU 6FP consortium (2005-2010).
In 2008 the stem cell project became fully funded and supported by a research collaboration between Novo Nordisk A/S, Cellartis and
University of Lund. This fostered the full integration of the stem cell project into the Diabetes Research Unit.
As a consequence of a reorganization at the Steno Diabetes Center (August 2008) to focus exclusively on clinical research – the research groups of Oluf Petersen/Torben Hansen (Genetics of T2D), Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen (T1D patogenesis) and Flemming Pociot
(Genetics of T1D) were transferred to HRI.
In November 2009, Prof. Allan Ertmann Karlsen was appointed Corporate Vice President and Director of Research in conjunction with the
refocus towards early applied research with the intensified aim to identify new potential treatment modalities in future diabetes treatment.
In this process the basic research groups were successfully established in new academic environments during 2010 – 2011. Prof. Flemming Pociot moved his basic research group to University Hospital Glostrup; Prof. Nils Billestrup and Prof. Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen moved to the Medical Faculty, University of Copenhagen; Prof. Oluf Petersen and Prof. Torben Hansen moved to the newly established Novo Nordisk
Center for Metabolic Research, University of Copenhagen; Prof. Palle Serup moved to the new Novo Nordisk Stem Cell Center, Danstem, University of Copenhagen, where O.D. Madsen also became honorary adjunct professor in 2013.
The transition culminates with the fusion of HRI and Diabetes Biology (Maj 2013) supporting innovative translation into the early diabetes pipeline and up to “first human dose”. New facilities were established in Måløv and all (approximately 100) employees translocated to unite
all diabetes related research at one site.
Hagedorn Research will be a continuing brand of Novo Nordisk R&D for stimulating idea-exchange between current and future academic
/ biotechnological networks in the promotion of translational research.