Lilly allays Ireland's fears and moves forward with biologics plant expansion that will add 130 jobs

After worrying authorities with a delay of plans to expand its biologics manufacturing site in County Cork, Ireland, Eli Lilly says it will move forward with the investment.

The on-again, off-again $215 million expansion of an Eli Lilly biologics plant in Ireland is on again.

The Indianapolis, Indiana-based company said Monday it will move forward with plans to add a manufacturing line at its site in Kindsdale, County Cork. It said construction should begin in coming months and commissioning will begin in 2019. The expansion is expected to add about 130 workers to the site by 2020.

Spokesperson Tamara Ann Hull said in an email that because negotiations are underway, specifics of the investment were not being released. Earlier reports put the cost at about €200 million.

Tremors of concern spread through Ireland in February when Lilly said it halted preparations for the project. That ignited speculation among some politicians that Lilly might divert funds to the U.S. after President Trump held a meeting with pharma execs in which he urged them to invest in U.S. manufacturing. Lilly’s new CEO David Ricks was at that meeting.

Weeks later, Ricks announced an $85 million expansion at an insulin device plant in Indianapolis and pointed to $850 million in capital outlays this year in the U.S. as an indicator of its commitment to investing there.

Lilly has been expanding its biopharma operations in Cork for some years. In 2012, it began construction of a 22,000-square-meter bioprocessing plant. It also has a 158,000-square-meter monoclonal antibody plant there that was completed in 2010.

The site also does API production for a host of small molecule drugs. Last year, the company said it would invest nearly $40 million (€35 million) to build a continuous manufacturing facility there. At the time it said it had invested about $740 million (€650 million) in the site in 8 years, hiring 350 employees.