On a mild May day in 1993, about 60 scientists and doctors gathered on a lawn in Copenhagen to commemorate the first International Symposium on GLP-1, the hormone that decades later would become the basis for highly effective diabetes and obesity drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy.
The meeting was a scientific showcase of all the leading experts in the nascent field. But for one of them, a chemist named Svetlana Mojsov, it was also the backdrop to a strange encounter with a former colleague.
At the conference, she bumped into Joel Habener, an endocrinologist she had collaborated with at Massachusetts General Hospital to discover the GLP-1 hormone. It had been a few years since Mojsov left Mass General, and while she was there, she had twice spoken with its intellectual property office about a patent for GLP-1. She had shown them notebooks of her work on the hormone, but they never followed up with her. So at the conference, she asked Habener, who was still with the hospital, if he had heard anything about the patent.
Instead of answering, “Joel turned around and left,” Mojsov said in a recent interview.
Years later, when talking with a biotech company, she learned that Mass General had indeed been granted patents in 1992, the year before she ran into Habener. The patents listed him as the sole inventor.