According to the company, the new filling plant inaugurated last week is its largest manufacturing facility outside Denmark, as well as the largest insulin plant in Latin America, and represents the biggest single investment in the history of Brazil's pharmaceutical industry. "Today we are not just inaugurating a new factory. We are celebrating one of the most significant milestones in the history of Novo Nordisk as an international company," commented president and CEO Lars Rebien Sørensen. With a surface area of 37,000 sq. m., the new plant will operate with "the most advanced insulin formulation and filling technology available in the world", Novo Nordisk said. The formulated insulin will be used to fill 3 ml Penfill cartridges, which are fitted into the company's pen systems such as NovoPen and FlexPen. Novo Nordisk has also approved additional investment of $50m for the construction of a FlexPen manufacturing facility in Montes Claros. This work has already begun and the FlexPen plant is expected to come onstream by 2009. The new formulation and filling unit will significantly boost Novo Nordisk's insulin manufacturing capacity in Brazil and increase the number of employees at Montes Claros from 400 to 750 by the end of this year, the company noted. While he could not provide specific figures, media relations officer Michael Laub said the new facility would have "major capacity", on a par with Novo Nordisk's insulin filling plant in Denmark. The expansion of the facilities in Montes Claros builds on Novo Nordisk's acquisition of a controlling stake in Brazilian insulin manufacturer Biobrás in December 2001. At the time, the Danish company pointed out that Brazil was the largest market for diabetes care products in Latin America, with more than 5 million Brazilians affected by the disease and an insulin market growing at 6.4 per cent year on year. All the same, the expansion at Montes Claros is very much part of a global production strategy for insulin, which includes Novo Nordisk facilities in Denmark, Brazil, Japan, China, France and the US. Around 95 per cent of total volume from the new Brazilian filling plant will be exported to countries such as Germany, Austria, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, further down the line, to a number of developing countries. In November 2004, Novo Nordisk announced a significant expansion of its insulin production facilities in Tianjin, China, consolidating existing packaging facilities for Penfill cartridges and FlexPen prefilled insulin pens as well as introducing a new assembly plant for the NovoPen 3 pen.