Lilly to shutter Puerto Rican plant as focus moves to insulin and biologics

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Eli Lilly's shifting portfolio leads to closure of one of its three Puerto Rican facilities
Eli Lilly's shifting portfolio leads to closure of one of its three Puerto Rican facilities

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An Eli Lilly small molecule plant in Puerto Rico has been earmarked for closure as the company shifts its focus towards its insulin and biologics pipeline.

The site in Guayama, Puerto Rico, is one of three Lilly plants on the island but the company has announced it would halt production at the end of 2015 and put the site on the market  as part of an assessment of its global manufacturing needs.

“The decision to conclude operations at Guayama is based upon the evolution of the company's pipeline, which includes a growing insulin and biologics portfolio, coupled with a less capacity-intensive small molecule portfolio,”​ SVP of Global API and Dry Products Manufacturing, Paul Ahern, said yesterday. “The utilization of the site has been impacted by patent expirations on the medicines produced there.”

The approximately 100 full-time employees currently working at the Guayama site will be offered roles at Lilly’s Carolina plant, an insulin active ingredient manufacturing plant also on the island which the firm says it will continue to invest in.

Last November​, $200m was spent to increase capacity of the API for Lilly’s fast acting insulin analog Humalog and the firm says a further $40m investment was pledged to Carolina this July. The facility received a US FDA Warning Letter in February 2010​ after a specific deviation caused Lyspro Insulin Zinc Crystals to be adulterated. The plant is yet to have received a close-out letter.

There have been a number of large pharma firms exiting manufacturing in Puerto Rico, including Pfizer and Merck & Co.,​ which both announced closures of small molecule API sites last year. However, there has been a push by the Puerto Rican Government​ to regenerate the industry’s presence by pursuing opportunities in biologics.

An economic roadmap​ published last year said the Government would “opportunistically pursue”​ biologic and biosimilar manufacturing, estimating 2,600 bioprocessing jobs would be added by 2017.

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