The early years
On 14 August 1915, Hans Lundbeck founded a company in Copenhagen, Denmark. The first employee that he hired, a young lady who was a multiannual Danish champion in typewriting, later became his wife and founder of the Lundbeck Foundation.
The company dealt in everything from machinery, biscuits, confectionery, sweeteners, cinema equipment and cameras to photographic paper and aluminium foil, besides renting out vacuum cleaners.
Eduard Goldschmidt was hired in 1924, bringing into the company his experience from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and a number of new agency contracts for pharmaceuticals, such as suppositories and painkillers. Cologne and creams were also added to the portfolio and the company acquired its first tablet compression machine.
Did you know?
Victims of the First World War provided neurologists with an unmatched, if unwanted, research opportunity. By observing physical and psychological dysfunctions caused by war injuries, neurologists were able to link sub-departments of our central nervous system with specific abilities.
In 1917, Julius Wagner Ritter von Jauregg described the first clausal, psychiatric treatment solution when he discovered the malaria inoculation treatment of paralytic dementia.
In 1920, Otto Loewi performed the first experiment proving that nerve transmission is a chemical process.
In 1922, schizophrenic patients started to be treated with Somnifen-Dauerschlaf therapy. Patients were given large doses of Somnifen (a barbiturate drug), making them sleep all day long for two-three weeks at a time.
Our own production facilities
During its first years, the business operated as a trading company, but from the mid-1920s, pharmaceuticals of all sorts were added to its range of products.
In the 1930s, Lundbeck began its own production and packaging of pharmaceuticals in Denmark. A growing production volume created a need for more space and additional employees. Lundbeck embarked on its journey of growth.
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In 1929, Hans Berger demonstrated the first human electroencephalograph (EEG), an instrument for measuring and recording the electrical activity of the brain. Berger’s invention is now used routinely as a diagnostic test in neurology and psychiatry, and as a common tool in brain research.
In 1933, Manfred Sakel reported his first experimental findings, testing the efficacy of insulin-shock treatment on schizophrenic patients in Berlin, Germany. In development were somatic treatments for mental illness, such as electroconvulsive therapy and psychosurgery. These treatments were based on the biological model of mental pathology that assumes mental illness is the result of a biological imbalance in the body and can be compared to physical diseases.
During the 1930s, with his colleague Herbert Jasper, Wilder Penfield invented the Montreal procedure through which he treated patients with severe epilepsy by destroying nerve cells in the brain where the seizures originated. Before operating, he stimulated the brain with electrical probes while the patients were conscious on the operating table (under only local anaesthesia), and observed their responses. In this way, he could more accurately target the areas of the brain responsible, reducing the side-effects of the surgery. This procedure is still used with success today.
The first original product
In 1937, Lundbeck hired its first scientific employee, the pharmacist, Oluf Hübner, who brought with him additional pharmaceutical products and initiated Lundbeck’s early dialogue with physicians.
In 1937, together with the biological institute at the Carlsberg Foundation, Lundbeck developed the first original Lundbeck product called Epicutan® for wound healing. The success with Epicutan® gave Lundbeck international ambitions and the confidence to continuously seek out new research opportunities – driving forces which still characterize the company today.
To ensure sufficient manufacturing capacity, the company moved to the Copenhagen suburb of Valby in 1939, where Lundbeck headquarters is still situated today. Led by Oluf Hübner, Lundbeck established its first chemical research facilities, providing the necessary circumstances for the development of Lucosil®, a product for urinary tract infections. The total number of employees was now 45.
Hans Lundbeck died in 1943, and Poul Viggo Petersen was employed to build up Lundbeck’s pharmaceutical research. P.V. Petersen travelled to Germany in 1946 and brought home a compound that Lundbeck developed further into the strong painkiller, Ketogan®, which was about twice as strong as morphine. The sales of Ketogan® brought Lundbeck into another period of strong growth where international markets continued to be more important than local ones.
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In 1935, Egas Moniz, a Portuguese neurologist, performed the world’s first lobotomy. In the years that followed, Walter Freeman and James W. Watts completed the first lobotomies in the US. The intended purpose of the lobotomy was to calm uncontrollably violent or emotional patients, and it did – at first – prove to be successful. However, aside from a twenty-five percent death rate, lobotomies also resulted in patients that were unable to control their impulses, were unnaturally calm and shallow and/or exhibited a total absence of feeling. The use of the practice decreased with the introduction of psychoactive drugs. In 1949, Egas Moniz received the Nobel Prize for his work.
In 1936, Italian physicians Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini administered the first shock therapy using electricity on a schizophrenic patient and received successful results. This treatment soon became widespread and was used most often in the US and Europe. Despite previous instances of abuse, this treatment is still used with success today, albeit with significant reforms.
In 1937, H. Houston Merritt and Tracy J. Putnam described their remarkable results using phenytoin to treat major absence and psychic equivalent seizures (epilepsy).
Intensifying neuroscience research
During the years following World War II, Lundbeck intensified its research, laying the foundation stone for the drugs which would later make Lundbeck world famous.
Lundbeck employed its own researcher in microbiology, Ladislaus Szabo, who helped to develop the first Lundbeck antibiotic products, Tyrosolvin and Tyrosolvetter, in the early 1950s. Lundbeck’s portfolio in antibiotics earned Lundbeck a strong position in the US and other international markets.
In 1954, Grete Lundbeck, the widow of Lundbeck’s founder, Hans Lundbeck, established the Lundbeck Foundation with the purpose of ensuring and expanding Lundbeck’s business, as well as providing financial support for primarily scientific objectives and the fight against diseases.
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Walter Rudolf Hess, a Swiss physiologist, won the Nobel Prize in 1949 for mapping the areas of the brain involved in the control of internal organs. Hess used brain stimulation techniques that were developed in the late 1920s, using electrodes to stimulate the brain at well-defined anatomical regions. This allowed him to map regions of the brain to specific physiological responses. By stimulating the hypothalamus, he could induce behaviours from excitement to apathy; depending on the region of stimulation.
Also in 1949, Australian psychiatrist, J.F.J Cade, introduced the psychotropic drug Lithium, and the era of psychopharmacology took off. A series of successful antipsychotic drugs were introduced in the 1950s that did not cure psychosis but were able to control its symptoms.
In 1952, chlorpromazine (commonly known as Thorazine) was introduced as the first of the antipsychotic medications, discovered in France.
The first antipsychotic
In 1959, Lundbeck launched Truxal® – one of the first antipsychotics in the world, which through the 1960s and 1970s became Lundbeck’s most sold product – a new era in antipsychotics for Lundbeck had begun.
The success with Truxal® for the treatment of schizophrenia increased the need for additional production capacity. In 1961, Lundbeck purchased a former dairy in Lumsås, Denmark, and soon began production of active compounds.
In the early 1960s, Lundbeck launched the antidepressant Saroten®. This marked the start of Lundbeck’s interest in antidepressants that would later lead to the discovery of citalopram, and the development of Cipramil®.
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Imipramine was, in the late 1950s, the first tricyclic antidepressant to be developed. In September 1958, at the first international congress of neuropharmacology in Rome, Italy, Dr. Freyhan, from the University of Pennsylvania, US, was one of the first clinicians to discuss the effects of imipramine in a group of 46 patients, most of whom were diagnosed with ‘depressive psychosis’.
The patients were selected for this study based on symptoms such as depressive apathy, kinetic retardation and feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Between 1960 and 1970, the number of employees doubled to 680, of whom approximately 100 were employed abroad. Lundbeck was becoming an international company. The company opened new offices in New York and Paris and, in 1972, Lundbeck Ltd. was established in Luton, UK.
Olaf Hübner, a leading force in Lundbeck’s continuous progress in research and development, expanded his travel activities in 1960s when he, after a trip to Canada and the US, stopped by Japan to create relations in the Japanese scientific environments and pharmaceutical companies.
As a result of Olaf Hübner’s well-established contacts in Japan and with the purpose of promoting Lundbeck’s own products as well as in-licensing new compounds, Lundbeck opened its first Japanese office in Tokyo in 1969.
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During the course of the 1970s, the development of new scanning technologies suddenly allowed doctors and researchers to have a closer look into the brain without opening up the skull.
In 1972, G. N. Hounsfield of EMI Limited of London, England, produced the first prototype of a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan. American physician and scientist, Raymond Damadian, created the world’s first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine while researching the analytical properties of magnetic resonance.
In 1974, M. E. Phelps, E. J. Hoffman and M. M. Ter Pogossian developed the first positron emission topography (PET) scanner, a machine that provides visual information about the activity of the brain. Doctors use PET scans to monitor such things as blood flow and oxygen utilization in the brain.
Focusing solely on brain disease
After 60 years of growth and development based on a wide assortment of products, Lundbeck decided at the end of the 1970s to phase out its existing agencies and cosmetics departments and focus on the development and commercialization of pharmaceuticals.
At the close of the 1980s, Lundbeck further intensified its business strategy focus. In future, Lundbeck would dedicate its efforts to the research, development, manufacturing and commercialization of pharmaceuticals for the treatment of brain diseases.
Cipramil® in 70 countries
Lundbeck expanded rapidly in the 1990s, due to the success of Cipramil®. Cipramil® was registered in more than 70 countries for the treatment of depression and anxiety.
By Lundbeck’s 75th anniversary in 1990, revenue amounted to DKK 0.5 billion and 8 affiliates had been established. There were 739 employees, 189 of whom were employed overseas.
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At the start of the 1990s, US President, George W. Bush, declared the decade the “Decade of the Brain”, emphasizing the political focus that diseases related to the brain were starting to get.
In 1993, the gene responsible for Huntington’s disease was identified.
In 1994, Alfred G. Gilman and Martin Rodbell shared the Nobel Prize for their discovery of the protein group in human cells named G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) and their role in signal transduction. Due to their physiological and pathophysiological relevance, GPCRs would become very successful targets for a large part of modern medicines.
In 1995, the first effective intervention for a stroke in progress was demonstrated by Dr. John R. Marler and colleagues.
Cipralex® growing Lundbeck’s business
To ensure its continued success, Lundbeck intensified its research activities and began in-licensing drugs from other pharmaceutical companies. This enabled Lundbeck to launch new drugs to take over when the patents on other drugs expired.
Hans Lundbeck’s company finally came of age when its shares were listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange (KFX) in June 1999. The listing gave Lundbeck access to new capital in case it wanted to buy up more subsidiaries, of which there were 30 in the year 2000. The company became more visible, placing more responsibility on management but providing a new method of rewarding employees with shares.
Cipralex®/Lexapro® was launched in 2002 and made available in about 100 countries worldwide, growing to account for the major share of Lundbeck’s business.
In 2003, Lundbeck acquired the US-based research company, Synaptic, thereby establishing a research unit as a bridgehead in the US. The interest in acquiring further knowledge about the group of G-protein coupled receptors was part of the reason behind the acquisition of Synaptic, who specialized in this area.
Strategic growth journey
In 2008, Lundbeck embarked on a new strategic growth journey, moving from a mainly European company to a global company, expanding into new, international markets.
In 2009, Lundbeck acquired Ovation Pharmaceuticals, Inc., establishing Lundbeck’s own commercial platform in the US, the world’s largest market for pharmaceuticals. Lundbeck also acquired Elaiapharm in France, increasing the company’s production capacity. Sabril® was launched in the US for the treatment of epilepsy.
In 2011, Lundbeck launched Saphris®/Sycrest® for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Further, Lundbeck established a new research centre in China and made a historic agreement with Japanese Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. to deliver innovative medicines targeting psychiatric disorders.
Patients in the US suffering from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome were given access to a new treatment option, with the launch of Onfi®.
In 2013, Lundbeck took its first steps into a new area, launching Selincro® in Europe for the treatment of alcohol dependence.
In 2014, Lundbeck expanded its market presence in the US by acquiring Chelsea Therapeutics and the compound Northera® for the treatment of symptomatic neurogenic orthostatic hypotension (NOH).
It took Lundbeck 75 years to reach its first half billion. In the following 25 years, the company grew times 30 and achieved revenue of approximately DKK 13.5 billion at Lundbeck’s 100th anniversary, in 2015.
Did you know?
In 2013, Ernst Bamberg et al. won the Brain Prize from the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation for their invention and refinement of optogenetics. The revolutionary technique allows genetically specified populations of neurons to be turned on or off with light, offering not only the ability to elucidate the characteristics of normal and abnormal neural circuitry, but also new approaches to the treatment of brain disease.
During the last century, Lundbeck has been engaged in the research, development, production, marketing and sale of pharmaceuticals across the world. Today, our main products treat depression/anxiety, schizophrenia, alcohol dependence, bipolar I disorder, epilepsy, Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and symptomatic neurogenic orthostatic hypotension (NOH).
Epicutan®, Lundbeck’s first original drug for the healing of wounds, is launched.
Lucosil® is launched for the treatment of urinary tract infections.
Ketogan® is launched for the treatment of acute pain.
Truxal® is launched for the treatment of schizophrenia.
Cipramil® is launched for the treatment of depression.
Serdolect® is launched for the treatment of schizophrenia.
Cipralex®/Lexapro® is launched for the treatment of depression/anxiety.
Azilect® is launched for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Ebixa® is launched for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Xenazine® is launched for the treatment of chorea associated with Huntington’s disease.
Sabril® is launched for the treatment of epilepsy.
Saphris®/Sycrest® is launched for the treatment of schizophrenia and manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder.
Onfi® is launched for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (epilepsy)
Abilify Maintena® is launched for the treatment of schizophrenia.
Selincro® is launched for the treatment of alcohol dependence.
Brintellix® is launched for the treatment of depression.
Northera® is launched for the treatment of symptomatic neurogenic orthostatic hypotension (NOH).