Lilly Invests $2.5B in German Plant Amid Explosive Demand for Obesity Drugs

Eli Lilly_iStock, jetcityimage

Pictured: Eli Lilly world headquarters in Indianapolis/iStock, jetcityimage

Eli Lilly is investing $2.5 billion to construct a manufacturing plant in Germany to support an increased demand for its diabetes and obesity drugs, the company announced on Friday.

The plant will be built in the German town of Alzey, Rhineland-Palatinate. The new facility will create 1,000 jobs for highly skilled workers such as engineers, operators and scientists, according to Lilly. The company also estimates that 1,900 jobs will be created during construction, which is slated to begin in 2024.

It will be the company’s first major German production facility and Germany’s workforce “will play a vital role in bolstering Lilly’s incretin supply when the new site is operational beginning in 2027,” according to the announcement. Lilly also said it will invest up to $100 million in the German early-stage life sciences ecosystem.

The news comes as the biopharma industry is struggling to keep up with the massive—and growing—demand in the obesity treatment market.

Novo Nordisk, another major player in the obesity space, last week announced that it was giving its manufacturing capabilities a $6 billion boost, which will fund the construction of a new multi-product facility in Denmark dedicated to the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, particularly those used in its GLP-1 products.

Novo’s Wegovy (semaglutide) is a GLP-1 agonist that induces the secretion of insulin from the pancreas in response to glucose in the blood. In the third quarter of 2023, Wegovy raked in $1.38 billion, representing a whopping 730% increase from the same period in 2022. Despite this growth, Novo’s weight-loss injection has struggled to meet the market’s demand since its approval in June 2021.

Lilly formally entered the obesity space relatively recently, with the approval of its own GLP-1 agonist Zepbound (tirzepatide) last week for chronic weight management. Tirzepatide was first approved in May 2022 under the brand name Mounjaro, which is indicated for type 2 diabetes but is often used off-label for obesity. Mounjaro made $1.4 billion in the third quarter of 2023.

Novo and Lilly form a virtual duopoly in the multibillion-dollar obesity market. Some analysts project that the market could reach up to $200 billion in value, 80% of which is likely to be captured by Lilly and Novo.

Far behind Novo and Lilly is AstraZeneca, which last week set its sights on the lucrative obesity market with a potential $2 billion contract with Shanghai-based biotech Eccogene for ECC5004. The early-stage candidate is also a GLP-1 receptor agonist but is designed to be orally administered, and is being developed for obesity, type diabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at or

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