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Surfactant – groundbreaking for preterm babies

The Nordic roots extend a long way back in time. It all started in the 1980s when two researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Bengt Robertson and Tore Curstedt, succeeded in extracting surfactant from pig lungs. Surfactant forms naturally in the lungs, but the substance is not formed in sufficient quantities in preterm babies. This leads to breathlessness, asphyxia or the baby not surviving.


The breakthrough led to the researchers, with the support of Paolo Chiesi - then head of research at Chiesi Farmaceutici, were able to develop a revolutionary treatment which since 1989 has contributed to more than five million premature babies in approx. 100 countries having access to this treatment.


Paolo Chiesi appointed honorary doctor
The launch of surfactant was the start of the research collaboration between Chiesi and the Karolinska Institute. A collaboration which continues to this day and which has resulted in continuous improvements when it come to the administration of surfactant. Paolo Chiesi was appointed honorary doctor at the Karolinska Institute (KI) in spring 2019 for his extensive contribution to the neonatal research that has improved the care of preterm babies.



    The company was founded in Parma in 1935 when Giacomo Chiesi, a chemist who dreamed of researching, bought Laboratorio Farmaceutico Parmense and began his adventure as an entrepreneur.

    In the early forties, the laboratory began to expand and sell its products abroad and exporting medicines to Eritrea and Austria. But in 1944, the war reached Parma, and a part of the company was destroyed in a bombing raid, stopping all activity until the end of the war.

    When the laboratory resumed its activities after the war, the first scientist was hired, and Chiesi launched its first penicillin-based ointment. At the time, Giacomo Chiesi was thinking of buying some land to build a real factory. The new pharmaceutical factory was launched in 1955, had 50 employees and manufactured a comprehensive range of successful drugs.



    In 1966, Giacomo Chiesi turned management of the company over to his two sons, Alberto and Paulo. Chiesi Farmaceutici was a small company at the time, but already looking towards international markets.

    Alberto and Paolo started an expansion and internationalization by opening its first office abroad in Brazil in the late seventies. 1979 was a major turning point, with the launch of a cortisone preparation used for asthma, allergic rhinitis and airway inflammation. The success of this preparation paved the way for Chiesi Farmaceutici’s commitment to respiratory diseases.



    Following the success, Chiesi expanded its interest for anti-inflammatory and analgesics, and in 1989 the company launched an anti-inflammatory drug. The preparation was soon marketed in over 60 countries, was certified for the US market and had now an international patent. Almost ten years after the Brazilian adventure, the Group's international expansion was very strong in both European and non-European countries. Since 1987, Chiesi has opened branches in Pakistan, France, Spain, Greece, UK, Austria and the Eastern European countries, the USA, Germany, the North African countries, Turkey, Bulgaria, China and now also in Scandinavia. The Group's historical products, with a focus on respiratory and cardiovascular therapies, remain well-established, and new products for neonatal diseases, musculoskeletal as well as  vascular diseases have also been added.

    The third Chiesi generation; Alessandro, Andrea, Giacomo and Maria Paola, joined the company at different times and with different roles. Their contribution has opened up new research and development: technologies for respiratory products with a new environmentally friendly spray, a new type of dry powder inhaler. In 2008, Chiesi stepped in as a pioneer in the world of regenerative medicine by founding Holostem Advanced Therapies Ltd, and with the acquisition of the Danish pharmaceutical company Zymenex year 2013, it has positioned itself at the forefront of innovation in the bio-pharmaceutical sector.


    Chiesi Pharma AB is established in the Nordic countries