ALK’s history dates back to 1923 when the first allergen extracts were produced at the pharmacy of the Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet) at the insistence of a young doctor, Kaj Hedemann Baagøe. An unusual partnership began with the hospital’s pharmacist Poul Barfod which laid the foundations for the Allergologisk Laboratorium (Allergological Laboratory) which eventually became ALK.
Dr. Baagøe began research into asthma in children, particularly in relation to allergy, while Barfod continued investigations into allergy preparations. In 1923, Barfod recorded the first allergen extract of goose feathers. Given the knowledge at the time, he did not know that goose feathers were not a serious source of allergy but in fact it was the dust mites in duvets and pillows.
Nonetheless, a train of thought had been set in motion that marked the beginning of an extensive journey into pharmaceutical production of allergen treatments. Ever since, researchers at ALK have focused on mapping the mechanisms of allergic impact on the immune system in order to develop new and constantly improved allergy therapies.
Focusing on the patient’s needs
More recently, the focus has been on clinical documentation of the many therapeutic benefits of allergy vaccination. A long series of articles in scientific publications document that ALK’s allergy vaccines significantly reduce allergic symptoms and thereby improve quality of life. This effect is sustained after the completion of treatment.
In the 1990’s, ALK initiated the Preventive Allergy Treatment (PAT) study with a view to documenting the preventive effects of allergy vaccination. In 2007, the 10 year follow-up results were published. The study demonstrates for the first time that allergy vaccination prevents hay fever from developing into asthma.
Also in the 1990’s, ALK was the first company to launch sublingual immunotherapy (allergy vaccination administered as droplets under the tongue). This was a decisive step towards making allergy vaccination more user-friendly.
Since then, ALK’s principal research and development strategy has been aimed at introducing tablet-based allergy vaccines. A breakthrough was made in 2006 when the company launched GRAZAX® – the first registered allergy tablet to address the underlying cause of grass pollen allergy. ALK’s future product pipeline also includes development of tablets against house dust mite, ragweed, cat and tree pollen allergy.