Eli Lilly to pour $450M more into diabetes drug plant in North Carolina, add 100 jobs

Even though Eli Lilly has yet to begin manufacturing at its ballyhooed plant at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, it now has plans to expand it to the tune of an additional $450 million.

That’s how much more Lilly says it will pour into the facility, along with an increase of at least 100 more employees, to help meet an expected surge in demand for new Type 2 diabetes treatment Mounjaro, which the company anticipates will soon be approved to treat obesity.

The expansion will bump up the site’s capacity for device assembly, filling and packaging, Lilly said. It comes on top of other expansion plans for the site, bringing the total earmarked for the facility to $1.7 billion, the company added.

In 2020, Lilly unveiled plans to spend $474 million to build the plant, which would house 462 employees and produce the company’s diabetes medicines including Trulicity, which racked up sales of $6.5 billion in 2021 and $5.5 billion in the first three quarters of last year.

“We’re on track to achieve the goal we shared in November 2022 of doubling incretin capacity by the end of this year, but this investment is key to ensuring even more patients will have access to medicines they need in the future,” Lilly’s president of manufacturing operations, Edgardo Hernandez, said in a release.

Lilly has admitted to being stretched thin but has largely been able to meet the increased demand for its diabetes medicines, avoiding the manufacturing pitfalls experienced by its primary rival in the diabetes market, Novo Nordisk, which produces Ozempic and already has an in-demand obesity drug on the market in Wegovy.

Two months ago, Lilly said it would be able to double its capacity to produce its diabetes drugs by the end of 2023 by expanding capacity of its own facilities and relying on contract manufacturers.

Lilly’s planned expansion is yet another indication of its commitment to doing business in North Carolina. In 2020, the company employed just 135 in the state, all of whom were sales reps. But since then, Lilly has committed to spend $4 billion for manufacturing in the state, it said.

In February of last year, Lilly unveiled designs on a second manufacturing site in the state, this one two hours to the west in Concord, where Lilly will put down $1 billion for an injectables plant that will eventually employ 600 people. 

Meanwhile, Lilly is prepping the Research Triangle Park site for FDA inspections in anticipation of production to begin before the end of this year. The company expects it to be fully operational by 2027, it said.

Closer to home this week, Lilly is facing local opposition to its plan to build two plants in Boone County, Indiana. Last year, the company unveiled a $2.1 billion investment to construct facilities that would produce active pharmaceutical ingredients and generic drugs.