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Lilly underlines its position as major biotech company

Published on 25/10/06 at 05:35pm

Eli Lilly has opened the first phase of a $560 million expansion to its US biotech research complex.

The news comes just months after closure of its European sites and as the company's product pipeline becomes increasingly weighted towards injectable medicines and away from tablets and other dry products.

Lilly is now promoting itself as the fifth largest biotech company in the world, with approximately 30% of its total drugs portfolio being biotech medicines, and in 2005, biotech medicines represented approximately $3.6 billion of the company's total sales of $14.65 billion.

In July, the company axed its manufacturing plant in Basingstoke, with the loss of 300 jobs. Closure of its R&D sites in Germany and Belgium in 2007 will cost a further 480 jobs.

Lilly initially announced plans for the complex in 2002  but plans were expanded to nearly twice their original size in 2004 to "better meet" the company's pipeline of biotech drugs.

The opening of the US bioproducts manufacturing plant has been described as the "crown jewel" of Lilly's massive new R&D nerve centre for biotechnology at its Indianapolis headquarters. Construction of the complex is expected to be completed during the first three months of next year.  

The construction of these three buildings, along with Lilly's acquisition in 2004 of Applied Molecular Evolution - a San Diego-based operation that conducts protein optimisation research - accounts for a total biotech capital investment of around $1 billion.

Lilly said the bioproducts plant would provide a state-of-the-art manufacturing process. It will be supported with the opening of a research facility on the site, which will house 700 scientists, engineers and support staff. Scientists at this 475,000 square foot complex will conduct cutting-edge research in molecular and cell biology, analytical science, pharmaceutics and engineering.

John Lechleiter, Lilly's president and chief operating officer said: "These investments reinforce Lilly's position as a biotech leader. In tandem with our rich history of biotechnology, they give us a competitive advantage to discover, develop and launch important new biotech therapies."

Despite the opening of the new complex, Lilly says it is committed to its remaining UK sites, which include the research facility at Eri Wood, Windlesham, Surrey, its bulk technology manufacturing facility at Speke on Merseyside and its UK headquarters at Lilly House, Basingstoke.

Lilly's biopharmaceuticals breakthrough came in 1922, when it began making and marketing insulin.  Currently, eight drugs of its current portfolio are bioproducts.

Biotech products represented one third of the company's drugs pipeline at the end of last year. Its diabetic retinopathy drug Arxxant (ruboxistaurin) is currently under FDA review, and at present, it has three other products in the pipeline: its blood-clotting agent prasugrel, co-developed with Sankyo, will be filed in  the US in early 2007 and is in the same class as Sanofi-Aventis' blockbuster Plavix; Enzastaurin a cancer compound, will be filed in 2008; and arzoifene, for osteoporosis and the prevention of breast cancer, in 2009.

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