How Ozempic Is Transforming a Small Danish Town

As the sun sets over the harbor in Kalundborg, a small town about 60 miles west of Copenhagen, light streams through the glass walls of Shaun Gamble’s cafe and bathes his afternoon customers in a warm glow. It’s an enviable location — on the water, next to a large playground — except for the fact that little else is nearby.

That is expected to change soon as the town benefits from America’s scramble for weight-loss drugs.

Nearby, at a sprawling manufacturing plant, Novo Nordisk makes nearly all of its semaglutide, the active ingredient in the company’s wildly popular diabetes and obesity treatments Ozempic and Wegovy. The company has been in Kalundborg for half a century but in the past two years announced it would invest 60 billion kroner, or about $8.6 billion, into expanding the facilities here. It’s the largest manufacturing investment in Denmark by a company, and it’s happening in this town of fewer than 17,000 people.

The money is part of Novo Nordisk’s global transformation to ramp up production of its best-selling drugs, but perhaps nowhere will feel the impact like this coastal community. Novo Nordisk plans to add 1,250 jobs to the existing 4,500 employees at the Kalundborg plant. A highway is being extended; investors are snapping up houses and planning new construction; universities have begun offering biotech courses to feed Novo Nordisk and nearby businesses with workers.

Shaun Gamble with customers in his cafe. He figures in time the town will be “totally different.”Credit…Charlotte de la Fuente for The New York Times

Mr. Gamble, who opened his Costa Kalundborg Kaffe four years ago after a job at a nearby Novo Nordisk warehouse, is optimistic. The cafe’s business is unsteady — busy in the summer when tourists flock to nearby cottages, yet money-losing for much of the rest of the year when it’s rainy and windy.

But the municipality, bolstered by Novo Nordisk’s boom, plans to open a library and cultural hub next door. Mr. Gamble is investing, too, planning to open earlier and serve more food, including breakfast.

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