Eli Lilly’s camaraderie with Ireland stretches all the way back to the 1970s. Now, the company’s 2,000-plus Irish workforce is set to grow several hundred stronger, thanks to plans for a new factory.
Beefing up biologics production ahead of a potential Alzheimer’s launch, Eli Lilly is plowing more than €400 million ($445.3 million) into a new manufacturing facility in Limerick, Ireland, according to IDA, the country’s inward promotion agency. The plant itself will employ more than 300 once it’s complete. In the meantime, Lilly plans to enlist some 500 temporary workers for the facility build.
The Limerick plant’s mission is threefold: It will boost Lilly’s manufacturing network for biologic active ingredients, help meet “increased demand for existing Lilly products” and extend the geographic reach of the company’s clinical pipeline. On the last point, Lilly specifically singled out its “promising” Alzheimer’s portfolio, though it did not call out donanemab by name.
Shortly after the Limerick announcement, Lilly dropped designs on another new factory—this time a $1 billion injectables facility in Concord, North Carolina, where it plans to recruit some 600 new hires.
The NC site is approximately 400 acres, which should provide enough room for the current project, as well as future growth, an Eli Lilly spokesperson said over email. Construction will kick off in 2022 and take several years to complete.
Lilly added that it “anticipates additional future investments in manufacturing to address growth expected from potential new medicines to treat diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and autoimmune conditions."
If all goes to plan at the FDA, Lilly could launch Alzheimer’s hopeful donanemab toward the end of 2022, Anat Ashkenazi, the company’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, said in a recent interview. The anti-amyloid antibody, which would rival Biogen’s controversial Aduhelm (aducanumab), is up for an accelerated approval. Lilly expects to complete its rolling FDA submission by the end of the first quarter.
Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be the first time Lilly used the Emerald Isle to bolster its manufacturing. Back in 2016, the company said it would invest nearly $40 million to set up a continuous manufacturing facility at its site in Cork.
Lilly completed the proof-of-concept facility in 2018, and it was so jazzed about continuous processing that it laid plans in 2019 to construct another, larger continuous plant there. Designed to “break engineering, scientific and information technology boundaries,” the facility is being built now and is expected to start production of active pharmaceutical ingredients in 2022.
“This new Lilly campus in Limerick will allow us to expand our capacity to make innovative new medicines that can help treat some of the world’s most serious illnesses,” Edgardo Hernandez, senior vice president and president of Lilly’s manufacturing operations, said in a statement. “This facility will use the latest technology to support advancements in science, productivity and sustainability, further establishing Lilly as a global manufacturing leader."
To win approval for the project, Lilly will submit a planning application with Limerick City and County Council in the next few weeks.
Ireland has made a name for itself as a life sciences and biopharma manufacturing hub, IDA noted in its release. In its massive hiring push, Lilly will be able to tap into a tightknit ecosystem of companies, communities and universities with a strong STEM backbone, the promotion agency said.
Lilly has been operating in Ireland since 1978. It boasts more than 2,300 employees there across its Kinsale manufacturing campus, its country-wide commercial team and a global business services center at Little Island in County Cork.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with details about Eli Lilly's new manufacturing site in North Carolina.