- Eli Lilly is again upping its investment in genetic medicine, announcing Tuesday plans to establish a Boston research center that will use RNA- and DNA-based technologies to develop new drugs.
- The Lilly Institute for Genetic Medicine will take up 334,000 square feet in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood, with occupancy slated to begin in 2024. Lilly, which has earmarked around $700 million for the project, expects the institute to grow from 120 employees to 250 within five years. Roles will include data scientists, chemists and research biologists with expertise in genetic medicine.
- Alongside drug development, the institute will take a page from another Lilly venture — Lilly Gateway Labs — and offer shared lab and office space to support biotechnology startups in the area. Use of the shared space, Lilly said, could create as many as 150 additional new jobs once it’s fully occupied.
Like many other larger pharmaceutical firms, Lilly has worked over the past few years to establish a stronger foothold in genetic medicine.
There, its biggest move has been the acquisition of Prevail Therapeutics in late 2020. For just shy of $900 million, Lilly secured access to two gene therapies that had already advanced into human testing — with one targeting Parkinson’s disease and the other dementia. The company has since inked deals with biotechs like ProQR Therapeutics and Entos Pharmaceuticals, aiming to expand the toolkit of genetic technologies at its disposal.
Lilly’s pipeline is also starting reflect these efforts. In an investor presentation last year, the company noted how genetic medicines had come to account for more than 20% of its diabetes, immunology and neuroscience research portfolio.
And that portfolio is likely to grow further with the launch of Lilly’s new center.
According to Andrew Adams, the company’s vice president of genetic medicine, research will be directed at several areas, including neuroscience and diabetes. “Lilly will focus on medicines acting at the nucleic acid level to advance an entirely new class that target the root cause of diseases, an approach that is fundamentally different than medicines available today,” Adams, who will also serve as the institute’s co-director, said in a statement.
Joining Adams as fellow co-director is Franz Hefti, CEO of Prevail. In the same statement, Hefti added that the institute will bolster efforts to treat neurodegenerative diseases, and help to integrate Lilly’s genetic medicine research and platforms.
Along with the planned hiring for the new institute, Lilly said it expects the Prevail site in New York to grow to include 200 scientists.
In building around a previous biotech acquisition, Lilly is following a playbook it established with Loxo Oncology, which it bought for $8 billion and made the foundation of its expansion in cancer drug development.