Drug maker Eli Lilly has completed the first phase of a $560m (€446m) expansion of its biotech facility in Indianapolis, US, in order to match the growing number of biological drugs in its pipeline.
The first phase of construction, a new bioproducts pilot manufacturing plant, is expected to help the company conduct more efficient, productive and dependable manufacturing processes.
The manufacturing facility will manufacture small-scale amounts of drug for use in clinical trials.
Furthermore, Lilly has built the facility to allow it to operate up to one-half of the manufacturing capacity needed for full-scale commercialisation, hoping to assure a smooth transition from development to full-scale manufacturing.
The company also announced the opening of a research support facility.
With approximately 30 percent (eight drugs) of the company's total drug portfolio being biotech medicines and sales representing around $3.6bn of the company's 2005 total revenue of $14.6bn, Lilly is eager to take advantage of the popularity of biopharmaceuticals.
The construction of the new buildings, added to Lilly's acquisition in2004 of Applied Molecular Evolution - a San Diego-based operation specialised in protein optimisation research - accounts for a total investment of approximately $1bn.
"These investments, in tandem with our rich history of biotechnology, give us a competitive advantage to discover, develop, and launch important new biotech therapies," said John Lechleiter, Lilly's president and COO.
These combined investments - expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2007 - represent the largest expansions of Lilly's biotechnology capacities to date.
Meanwhile it seems that the company has turned its back on other parts of the business as it has reportedly confirmed its intention to close its UK plant in Basingstoke, Hampshire, which could see the site's 430 employees lose their jobs.
According to media reports, the site will shut down in early 2008 unless a suitable buyer is found by the end of this year.
The company blamed the lack of demand for the types of medicines being produced at the Basingstoke plant, which manufactures tablets and capsules, and the increasing importance of injectable medicines.
Eli Lilly first announced it was considering the plant closure earlier this year, in a step to bring development costs down from $1.1bn per drug to $800m.
Nobody from Eli Lilly was available to comment on the decision at the time of publishing.