Lilly Pumps $700M into Boston-Based RNA Therapeutics Facility

Eli Lilly_Cristina Arias_Getty Images

Cristina Arias_Getty Images

Eli Lilly and Company is investing $700 million to build a state-of-the-art facility in the Boston Seaport, as part of plans to advance its RNA-based research and development activities. 

The new Lilly Institute for Genetic Medicine was launched on February 22 and built on Lilly's acquisition of Prevail Therapeutics, the New York-based gene therapy developer, in 2020. At the new facility, researchers and scientists from both New York and Boston will be working together to build on their expertise in RNA- and DNA-based technologies to create treatments for diseases with large unmet needs. Their focus would be to prevent or treat illnesses that traditional medicines cannot. 

Eli Lilly's genetic medicine research efforts already account for over 20% of its immunology, diabetes and central nervous system portfolio. The firm expects manpower at its new Boston site to grow from 120 to over 250 in the next five years to include more chemists, research biologists, data scientists and other genetic medicine experts. Its New York facility is also expected to expand to as many as 200 scientists in-house. 

"Establishing the Lilly Institute for Genetic Medicine will allow us to pair cutting-edge technologies with our deep biological expertise in several areas including neuroscience and diabetes. We will focus on medicines acting at the nucleic acid level to advance an entirely new class that targets the root cause of diseases, an approach that is fundamentally different from medicines available today," said Andrew C. Adams, vice president of genetic medicine at Lilly, in a statement. 

The new Boston site boasts 334,000 square feet of leased space in a 12-story building. It will also include shared space to support start-up biotech firms that want to take up shop in the Boston area. Lilly projects this endeavor will create around 150 new jobs once all slots are filled. Occupancy is set for 2024. 

"We look forward to working with hundreds of scientists and researchers who share a common goal — to create and develop innovative genetic medicines that make life better for people around the world," added Franz Hefti, the CEO of Prevail Therapeutics at Lilly and the Institute's co-director. 

News of the new facility at the Boston Seaport comes over a month after Eli Lilly acquired rights to Entos Pharmaceuticals' Fusogenix proteolipid vehicle (PLV) nucleic acid delivery technology for treatments that can target the central and peripheral nervous systems. Fusogenix PLVs are designed with FAST proteins to allow the seamless delivery of DNA or mRNA to target cells via direct fusion. 

Under the terms of the deal, Entos will generate, develop and optimize PLVs using its platform, and then Lilly will be responsible for choosing which PLVs will move forward to clinical development and possible commercialization. The companies have yet to disclose which targets they will start with. 

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