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Orion's history

Orion's history

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    1910s – Orion is founded

    Orion is established on 21 September 1917 by pharmacists Onni Turpeinen, Wikki Walkama and Eemil Tuurala. The pharmaceutical facility is located in a former vegetarian butter substitute factory in Kruununhaka, Helsinki. The first product manufactured is Bellistol gun oil, and Orion’s first hit product is dulcine, an artificial sweetener.   

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    1920s – Towards greatness through a share issue

    In 1922, Orion’s share capital is increased through a share issue. Among those taking part is paediatrician Arvo Ylppö, whose notable accomplishments include the creation of comprehensive maternity and child health clinic system in Finland. Ylppö becomes a member of Orion’s Board of Directors in 1925, which kick-starts a streak of him serving in the company’s various managing bodies for nearly half a century.

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    1930s – Finland’s largest is located in Vallila

    In 1934, Orion relocates to new facilities in Vallila, Helsinki, where it begins to prepare vaccines in 1937. The very next year Orion’s number of employees rises to 100, making it the largest pharmaceutical plant in Finland. 

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    1940s – Miracle drug during the war

    In 1944, Orion’s plant produces first batches of a new miracle drug: penicillin. The experiment is discontinued because of the war, but Orion will experience the resurgence of penicillin in the next decade. During 1960s, Orion becomes the undisputed market leader in penicillin products in Finland.

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    1950s – Modern research has arrived

    In 1952, Orion decides to invest more heavily in the development of new drugs. Joachim Alberty from Germany is hired to supervise the work. As Alberty arrives, the winds of change start sweeping over Orion, and its pharmacological department experiences a total transformation within a year: Orion is now able to conduct modern research.

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    1960s – The new pharmaceutical plant

    In 1962, Orion’s new pharmaceutical plant is completed in Mankkaa, Espoo. Four years later, a chemical plant producing raw materials is inaugurated next to it. Also, Diapalm is introduced for the treatment of anxiety that same year. 

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    1970s – Hello world, here we come

    Orion is the last Finnish pharmaceutical producer to enter the global market. But once the wheels are set in motion in the early 1970s, things start moving fast quickly! World conquering begins with the Uricult rapid diagnostic test intended for diagnosing urinary tract infections. The test is the result of Orion’s development work, and in 1973 it is already exported to nearly 40 countries.

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    1980s – Mankkaa on my mind

    In 1984, Orion’s new head office is completed in Mankkaa, Espoo. This makes things easier for the personnel: no longer do they have to shuttle between Vallila and the pharmaceutical plant located in Mankkaa. At the same time, the company’s longtime dream becomes a reality: the new address of the head office is Orionintie 1. 

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    1990s – Strength through unity

    Orion merges with its former competitor Farmos in 1993. Two Finnish giants joining forces is a stroke of luck in terms of research: the work both have done in the past complements each other. Farmos has developed, for example, heart and cancer drugs and animal health sedatives, while Orion has been working on a drug for Parkinson’s disease, among others. In 1995, Orion goes public when it is listed on the Helsinki stock exchange, and also becomes the only Finnish company still manufacturing drugs in Finland. 

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    2000s – Focusing the business

    Stalevo, a drug developed and patented by Orion for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, is authorised for marketing in 2003. In 2005, generic drugs become the company’s focus area alongside proprietary drugs. Orion also trims down parts of its business, deciding to focus on drug production and diagnostics.

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    2010s – Towards something even bigger

    In 2013, foreign markets represent two-thirds of Orion’s net sales. The next year, generic drugs represent nearly 50% of the company’s net sales. Orion decides to centralise its logistics operations and most of its tablet packaging operations in a factory in Salo, which is inaugurated in 2014. 

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    2020s – Research and Development focuses on oncology and pain

    Orion discovers a new molecule for the treatment of prostate cancer. Darolutamide, developed in co-operation with Bayer, is an oral androgen receptor inhibitor developed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed malignancy in men worldwide. In 2020, an estimated 1.4 million men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and about 375,000 died from the disease worldwide.