Accessibility Statement

100 Years of Insulin

In 1921, researchers from the University of Toronto discovered insulin, the world's first life-saving treatment for diabetes.


Frederick Banting and Charles Best, who together discovered insulin (Courtesy of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto)

2021 marks the 100th anniversary of this discovery, which transformed the treatment of diabetes forever. Before the discovery of insulin, the lives of people with diabetes were cut short.

In 1923, Lilly became the first company to commercialize insulin. Today, we are commemorating the centennial of insulin by recognizing the work of researchers, advocates and people living with diabetes.

Meet Leonard Thompson

Lilly's Leonard campaign commemorating the centennial anniversary of insulin is named for Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old boy who in 1922 became the first person with diabetes ever treated with insulin.


Leonard Thompson, the first person treated with insulin

Since then, developments in insulin have come a long way. We are proud to recognize the progress made in insulin development over the last century, and the advancements yet to come, while honoring the bravery of Leonard and millions of others whose lives were forever changed by insulin.


James Collip, who purified insulin for diabetes treatment (Courtesy of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto)

Named for Leonard, our insulin centennial celebration both honors the past and recognizes modern advancements made in the development of insulin and other diabetes treatments. We look forward to celebrating many stories of courage and perseverance in the global diabetes community.

The Leonard Award - Celebrating 100+ Years of Innovation in Diabetes Care

Leonard Logo Updated 5.5.2022 BlackCAR#2255

About the Leonard Award

In 2021, Lilly celebrated the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin and a century of innovation in diabetes care by launching the Leonard Award. The award – inspired by the life of Leonard Thompson, the first person with diabetes to be treated with insulin – recognizes champions in the diabetes community who are dedicated to advancing diabetes management and care.

As we continue our insulin centennial celebration in 2023, we recognize the 100th anniversary of the mass production of insulin and honor this year’s Leonard Award winners with a $100,000 USD total donation to Life for a Child, a non-profit organization that provides access to care, education, lifesaving medicines and supplies to children and young people with type 1 diabetes in resource-limited countries.

2023 will be the final year of this award from Lilly.

Meet the Recipients of the 2023 Leonard Award

Advocate/Advocacy Professional: Julie Heverly, Senior Director of the Time in Range Coalition at the diaTribe Foundation, for bringing together patient advocacy groups, corporations and medical organizations to enhance diabetes care, drawing from her 13-year tenure at the American Diabetes Association and her personal journey with type 1 diabetes.

Endocrinologist/Primary Care Physician: Kamlesh Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the Leicaster Diabetes Centre in the U.K., for significant contributions to diabetes care and leading research efforts focused on early diabetes identification and interventions, profoundly impacting diabetes care in the United Kingdom.

Researcher: Mark Huising, Professor in Neurology, Physiology, and Behavior at UC Davis in the U.S., for pioneering leadership in diabetes research, with groundbreaking work on the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas and the discovery of a novel insulin-producing cell type, significantly advancing our understanding of diabetes and its treatment.

Our Commitment to Insulin Advancement and Access 

Addressing the impact of diabetes has been at the heart of our purpose for a century and advancing insulin therapy is a hallmark of our business.

Two years after Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin for the treatment of humans, Lilly manufactured and brought the first commercial insulin, Iletin, to people living with diabetes. The widespread manufacturing of insulin came with challenges, but Lilly continued to persevere in our commitment to provide solutions for people with diabetes. 

Great strides have been made in the fight against diabetes through improvements to life-saving insulins by many people and institutes in the healthcare space. This is good for people living with diabetes, but taking insulin remains a frustrating process with complex variables that may limit medicines from reaching their full potential.

Global rates of diabetes quadrupled between 1980 and 2014, and continue to rise. Most people with diabetes are not achieving their treatment goals, despite new medicines and advances in diabetes management technology. In fact, only 17% of youth and 21% of adults living with diabetes are meeting target A1C levels, and outcomes are worsening for young adults over time.

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We are working to transform care for tens of millions more people living with diabetes, including those with related metabolic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. We continue to research ways to improve current treatments, such as connected care solutions that will increase efficiencies in treatment delivery and alleviate the burden associated with disease management.

Looking to the future, we remain committed to deliver breakthrough outcomes for people with diabetes. Today, people with diabetes can access more than 150 Lilly patient support programs across 51 countries, reaching close to two million people each year. We strive to ensure access to treatment for everyone in the global diabetes community.