Novo Nordisk keeps GLP-1 expansion spree rolling with $2.3B manufacturing upgrade in France

After plotting $6 billion in production upgrades earlier this month, Novo Nordisk’s CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen suggested the expansion outlay was just the start. Now, some three weeks later, he’s putting his company’s money where his mouth is.

Starting this year, Novo Nordisk will plug more than 16 billion Danish kroner (about $2.3 billion) into an expansion of its long-held production site in Chartres, France. The upgrade will help the site crank out current and future drugs for serious chronic diseases, Novo said in a release.

Aside from a significant increase in capacity, the manufacturing site will be equipped for aseptic production and finished production processes. In addition, Novo plans to expand the Chartres site’s current quality control laboratory.

The outlay is designed to boost Novo Nordisk’s ability to meet future demands for its drugs, including GLP-1 products, the company explained.

Novo’s semaglutide franchise of GLP-1s—which includes Ozempic and Rybelsus for diabetes, as well as Wegovy for obesity—has been doing gangbusters in recent years. But intense demand for the products has also saddled Novo with supply constraints.

In early November, Novo revealed a $6 billion investment to expand its existing manufacturing facilities in Kalundborg, Denmark, with the vast majority of the venture directed toward increasing capacity for active pharmaceutical ingredients, including semaglutide.

As for the latest expansion in France, the project is set to more than double the site’s existing footprint and create more than 500 new jobs, Novo said. Construction has already kicked off and will gradually wrap up from 2026 to 2028.

Novo established its Chartres site back in 1961. The plant currently employs around 1,600 people and manufactures treatments used by more than 10 million diabetes patients around the globe.

Back in Denmark, Novo’s recent $6-billion investment is expected to create another 800 new jobs on top of the 4,400 employees that currently work at the Kalundborg campus.

At the time of the expansion’s unveiling, Novo’s CEO Jørgensen said the $6 billion wouldn’t be the end of Novo’s manufacturing overhaul.

“With the capacity we’re building and what competition is building, I believe we are far from getting to a billion people,” Jørgensen said, as quoted by Reuters. By the World Health Organization’s estimate, more than 1.9 billion adults worldwide were overweight in 2016, and the number has been rising.

“I believe we will continuously have to invest,” the CEO previously told Reuters.

Jørgensen was alluding to Eli Lilly, Novo’s long-time rival in diabetes, whose dual GIP/GLP-1 agonist tirzepatide recently passed muster at the FDA in obesity, donning the commercial moniker Zepbound.

Lilly has itself experienced supply disruptions around tirzepatide, which is also approved in Type 2 diabetes as Mounjaro. During the company’s third-quarter earnings call, Lilly’s CEO David Ricks said his company was “aggressively planning” additional manufacturing expansions.

Wasting little time, Lilly recently blueprinted a new, $2.5 billion plant in Alzey, Germany, which is expected to eventually employ up to 1,000 people. 

The site, slated to utilize automation and high-speed manufacturing lines, will help meet demand for several drugs, including those in Lilly's diabetes and obesity portfolio, the company said in mid-November. 

Construction on the site is set to begin next year, and the plant is expected to commence operations in 2027.