Eli Lilly invests additional $5.3B for production of diabetes, obesity drugs in Indiana

Since scoring approval two years ago for its next-generation diabetes treatment Mounjaro (tirzepatide), Eli Lilly has been playing catch up with market leader Novo Nordisk.

On Friday, the Indianapolis-based drugmaker revealed its plan to take a giant leap in the race, as it will invest an additional $5.3 billion to build a massive manufacturing complex, 30 miles away in Lebanon, Indiana. The expenditure will boost production of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) for its injected tirzepatide products Mounjaro, for type 2 diabetes, and Zepbound, for obesity, Lilly said.

The announcement comes as Lilly and its Danish rival scale up in an effort to meet the overwhelming demand for their blood sugar modulating products.

Lilly’s new financing brings total investment in its 600-acre campus to $9 billion, making it the largest outlay in United States history for synthetic medicine API manufacturing, CEO David Ricks said in a statement.

“Importantly, we are investing in our home state of Indiana, creating high-wage, advanced manufacturing, engineering and science jobs for hundreds of current and future Hoosier families,” Ricks, a graduate of nearby Purdue University, added in a release.

When it is complete, the complex will employ 900 workers. The project also will provide more than 5,000 construction jobs. Construction kicked off last year in the LEAP Research and Innovation District. Lilly expects to begin manufacturing products at the facility in 2026 with the scale up continuing through 2028.

Since 2020, Lilly said that it has committed more than $16 billion to develop new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Europe. Those sites are in Limerick, Ireland; Alzey, Germany; Concord, N.C. and at the Raleigh/Durham Research Triangle Park, N.C.

The $2.5 billion plant in Germany is expected to begin production in 2027. Lilly also projects the Research Triangle facility to become fully operational in 2027.

Additionally, the company has invested $1.2 billion to upgrade and expand its manufacturing capability at the Lilly Technology Center in Indianapolis. Last month, Lilly also purchased an 84,000-square-foot facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, for an undisclosed sum from Nexus Pharmaceuticals. Lilly expects the injectable drug factory to be updated and ready for operations in late 2025.

In the first quarter of this year, Mounjaro generated $1.8 billion in sales, which was triple its haul from the first quarter of 2023, while Zepbound accounted for $517 million in sales in its first full quarter on the market.

Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk’s older GLP-1 drugs outsold Lilly’s by better than 2 to 1 as type 2 diabetes treatment Ozempic pulled in $4.3 billion and obesity medicine Wegovy reached $1.3 billion in sales.

In its attempt to scale up, Novo has made a bold move, paying $11 billion up front for three Catalent fill-finish facilities.

While Novo remains in the lead based on total GLP-1 sales, the momentum is on the side of Lilly. Last month, GlobalData projected that Mounjaro will overtake Ozempic as the industry’s top blood sugar-modulating treatment, with sales reaching a staggering $34 billion by 2029.

In 2023, Novo increased sales by 31% while Lilly's were up 20%. Of the industry's top 20 drugmakers by revenue, Novo and Lilly were the only companies with double-digit sales increases last year, demonstrating the remarkable impact weight loss drugs have had on the market.

As for Lilly’s buildup close to home, the company is getting much government support. Indiana has partnered with the company on road improvements, water, electric, utilities and other infrastructure features. The state also has made workforce development commitments and established economic incentives tied to Lilly’s achievement of investment and employment milestones.

The Biden administration, with its Made In America initiative, also is taking credit for Lilly’s historic investment.

“President Biden is committed to creating good-paying manufacturing and union jobs in the United States—and he is delivering,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.