Gene tehnology ethics

Genetic engineering and GMOs

GMOs are live cells or organisms which have been genetically modified at Novo Nordisk to produce specific pharmaceutical substances. Genes coding for a human protein are inserted into a plasmid or the chromosomes, providing the opportunity of efficiently producing proteins in large scale quantities. GMOs have been used in the pharmaceutical production since the 1980’s.

Genetic modification of cells and organisms presents a unique opportunity to increase the possibilities of offering medical help and cures for patients

GMOs in Novo Nordisk research and production

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

Novo Nordisk’s technology is based on microbial fermentation of genetically modified yeast, E-Coli bacteria and mammalian cells. For each product, we develop specific genetically modified cell lines. DNA carrying the genetic codes for the therapeutic proteins of interest is inserted into the cells.

Ethical concerns

Potential risks involved with the application of gene technology are seriously assessed at Novo Nordisk. Risk assessments are carried out prior to the use of GMOs for both research and production purposes as well as to remain compliant with regulations. Our contained use of approved GMOs for research and production is based upon approximately 25 years of risk assessments and safety records. No damage to human health or the environment has ever been recorded.

GMOs increase the possibilities

Historically Novo Nordisk had to collect insulin from pig glands and turn it into insulin for humans. By using GMO produced insulin it is possible to avoid the risk of transferring virus from pigs to humans. Without genetic engineering it would not be possible to produce NovoSeven®, which is the only recombinant treatment for people with haemophilia with inhibitors, or to produce a sufficient and stable supply of high-quality products to meet the current and growing demands.
When balancing pros and cons regarding our use of GMOs, we find that the benefit of being able to develop and offer treatment to many patients are by far outweighing the potential minimal risks. Nevertheless, Novo Nordisk continuously aims at eliminating and 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.