Lilly ups spend on diabetes, obesity drug production to $9bn

Eli Lilly

Eli Lilly is determined not to be left behind when it comes to manufacturing capacity for new diabetes and obesity therapies, raising its spending on a new plant in Indiana, USA, to $9 billion.

The decision adds a massive $5.3 billion to its earlier $3.7 billion investment plan for the site in Lebanon, which will be a focal point for the production of its dual GLP-1/GIP agonist tirzepatide, sold as Mounjaro for diabetes and Zepbound for obesity.

Lilly’s plan comes as its arch-rival in the GLP-1 agonist category – Denmark’s Novo Nordisk – has also said it will spend billions of dollars to ensure its manufacturing capacity can cater for burgeoning demand for the drug class, including a spend of $6 billion at its existing sites and an $11 billion deal to buy three facilities from Catalent.

Lilly said in a statement that it has invested more than $18 billion since 2020 to develop new manufacturing sites in the US and Europe since 2020.

The Lebanon facility will be the recipient of the largest individual investment in Lilly’s almost 150-year history, said chief executive David Ricks, who added that it will also “support pipeline growth and leverage the latest technology and automation for maximum efficiency, safety, and quality control.”

Ricks said on the company’s first-quarter results call that “Lilly’s top priority is to ensure we execute on our ambitious manufacturing expansion agenda.”

Sales of Mounjaro more than tripled to $1.8 billion in the first quarter of this year, while Zepbound brought in $517 million following its FDA approval last November.

The company said it expects the Lebanon site to start making medicines toward the end of 2026, and scale up operations through 2028. When fully operational, it will employ around 900 people, including engineers, scientists, operating personnel, and lab technicians.

The company first announced its plans to build two new Indiana sites in 2022, both at the LEAP Innovation Park in Lebanon, which is located between Purdue University and the city of Indianapolis, where Lilly has its headquarters.

The new investment will more than double the size of Lilly’s plans for the site and comes alongside investments in two North Carolina facilities, two others in Ireland and Germany, and the acquisition of a Wisconsin plant from Nexus Pharma announced in April that is due to come online next year.

Fuelled by new data showing GLP-1 agonists can have benefits beyond diabetes and obesity – including reducing risk in cardiovascular and kidney disease – the category has been predicted to reach a market value of $150 billion in 2030, according to analysts at Jefferies.