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Eli Lilly to invest $450 mln more to expand capacity as obesity drug decision looms


An Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceutical manufacturing plant is pictured at 50 ImClone Drive in Branchburg, New Jersey, March 5, 2021. Picture taken March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Eli Lilly and Co plans to invest an additional $450 million to expand capacity of a plant in North Carolina, the U.S. drugmaker said on Tuesday, as it races to boost production ahead of a decision on its promising obesity treatment.

The company has been struggling to meet strong demand for its incretin products, which include its blockbuster diabetes drug Trulicity and recently launched Mounjaro. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration added both to its list of drugs facing shortages.

Mounjaro, which has the common name tirzepatide, was approved for diabetes in May last year, and the company anticipates an approval for obesity, a multi-billion dollar market, this year.

Trulicity recorded $5.5 billion in sales last year through Sept. 30, but Lilly and investors have pinned their hopes on Mounjaro to drive future growth.

Goldman Sachs analyst Chris Shibutani, in a note on Monday, estimated the drug would generate sales $2.3 billion in 2023, fueled by rapid uptake, and $27 billion in peak sales in 2032.

The expansion of the Research Triangle Park plant includes additional parenteral filling, device assembly and packaging capacity, Lilly said, adding this phase is expected to create at least 100 new jobs when fully operational in 2027.

“We’re on track to achieve the goal we shared in November 2022 of doubling incretin capacity by the end of this year, but this investment is key to ensuring even more patients will have access to medicines they need in the future,” Edgardo Hernandez, president of Lilly’s manufacturing operations, said in a statement.

Since 2020, the drugmaker has committed $1.7 billion for development and expansion of the Research Triangle Park site.