Lilly to boost diabetes drug production with $450M factory investment

Eli Lilly will invest $450 million in a North Carolina manufacturing plant to meet growing demand for its diabetes drugs Mounjaro and Trulicity, the company said Tuesday.

The investment in the Research Triangle Park plant will expand filling, device assembly and packaging capacity to help the Indiana-based drugmaker double production of the injectable drugs by the end of 2023.

The increased production of Trulicity and of Mounjaro, Lilly’s newest diabetes drug, comes as rival Novo Nordisk has struggled to manufacture enough of its obesity drug Wegovy, which comes from a similar class of blood-sugar lowering drugs as Lilly’s medicines. Lilly could receive an expanded approval for Mounjaro as a weight-loss treatment later this year.

Availability of Novo’s drug “is a key factor as we assess Mounjaro’s demand and supply,” Lilly CFO Anat Ashkenazi said during a call with Wall Street analysts in November to review third quarter earnings. “To meet this rapidly growing demand across our [metabolic] business, we have plans to add substantial additional manufacturing capacity.”

The new investment will be in a plant the company started building in 2020 and to which it has committed $1.7 billion. Lilly is preparing for an FDA inspection of the site and plans for production to begin there later this year.

The new phase of the facility will be completed in 2027, Lilly said, adding 100 jobs to the 460 that were originally anticipated.

In addition, Lilly has begun building two new facilities in Indiana to support new product launches.

With another 400 million euros slated for investment in biologics production in Ireland, the company expects to spend around $2.5 billion over several years on drug manufacturing capacity. “These investments, and other capital investments that support our operations, will result in capital expenditures being higher than recent historical levels for the next several years,” the company said in a regulatory filing for the third quarter.

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