Insulin sales kit, Eli Lilly and Company, 1940s

Courtesy National Museum of American History

In the early 1920s, Canadian researchers isolated insulin from the pancreas glands of animals and successfully treated children with diabetes. They partnered with the American company Eli Lilly to mass produce this life-saving substance. This sales kit illustrates the step-by-step process for manufacturing insulin.

Photo of closed insulin sales kit.

Photo of opened insulin sales kit.

Photo of a bottle with strips of pancreas glands inside.

Pancreas Glands

Cut into strips to show original structure. These are now processed as further described.

Photo of a bottle with ground up pancreas glands inside.

Pancreas Glands

Ground find in acid alcohol water mixture. The liquid is separated from the glands by filtration.

Photo of a bottle of crude Iletin.

Crude Uletin (nsulin, Lilly)

Filtrate from No. 2 is concentrated and material insoluble in acid water removed. Solution is then saturated with sodium chloride and the precipitate fromed contains Iletin (Insulin, Lilly).

Photo of a bottle of crude iletin

Crude Iletin (Insulin, Lilly)

Solution in water of the precipitate from No. 3 after further purification by alcoholic fractionation.

Photo of a bottle of Iletin

Iletin (Insulin, Lilly)

This is the colorless finished product in one of the commonly used strengths. This very highly purified colorless solution is obtained through repeated iso-electric precipitation of solution No. 4.

Photo of a bottle of Iletin made from zinc-Insulin crystals.

Iletin (Insulin, Lilly) made from zin-Insulin crystals.

This represents a solution of pure zinc-Insulin cystals. The crystals used have been prepared from Iletin (Insulin, Lilly) and zinc.

Photo of 2 bottles of protamine, zinc, and Iletin.

Protamine, Zinc & Iletin (Insulin, Lilly)

This product is prepared by adding protamine, zinc, and phosphate buffer to Iletin (nsulin, Lilly).

Photo of pancreas glands being moved into a hopper by a man.

Grinding pancreas

Glands are removed from the chill room by conveyer and emptied into the hopper from the floor above.

Photo of precipitation tanks and condensers

Precipitation tanks and condensers

used in the manufacture of Iletin (Insulin, Lilly) preparations.

Photo of laboratory.

Section of Laboratory

for the final purification of Iletin (Insulin, Lilly) preparations.

Photo of women workeds filing and sealingn vials.

Filing and sealing vials

of Iletin (Insulin, Lilly) preparations in glass-enclosed, air-conditioned room.