UCB Snags Eli Lilly U.K. Research Site, Plans to Invest £1 Billion Over Five Years for R&D


UCB is investing more than £1 billion (roughly 1.29 billion USD) over five years to expand its research and development (R&D) capabilities in the U.K., which will include a transition to a newly acquired 47-acre R&D campus from Eli Lilly located in Windlesham, Surrey.

The global neurology- and immunology-focused biopharma announced Friday it has signed an agreement to acquire the new campus from Eli Lilly to support the company’s “cutting-edge research and development, early manufacturing and commercialization of medicines” for patients with severe neurological and immunological diseases.

Formerly, the facility was Eli Lilly’s second-largest research site worldwide. Exactly one year ago, Eli Lilly announced it was closing the doors to its neuroscience-focused Erl Wood research center in Surry. The Indianapolis, IN.-based pharmaceutical company said it planned to do so by the end of 2020, effectively impacting 270 staff members and resulting in possibly 80 redundancies. Approximately a third of the non-laboratory workers at the Eli Lilly site was moved to another nearby location. This news followed some months after the company also announced it was cutting 250 jobs at its 1,400-employee factory in Eastern France for the purposes of “modernization.”

The new U.K. site will be home to one of the company’s three global R&D hubs, in addition to those located in Belgium and the U.S. Following completion of the acquisition, which is expected for November 2020, UCB will perform a complete “state-of-the-art” refurbishment of the campus before staff at its current U.K. headquarters in Slough, Berkshire, move in.

While UCB’s five-year plan to invest £1 billion in the U.K. effort will include the new facility, both UCB and Eli Lilly have yet to disclose the financial details on the acquisition. According to UCB, the five-year, £1 billion investment will also support the addition of “650 high-value jobs in scientific research, translational medicine, clinical development, early manufacturing and commercial roles” in the region.

“We have a strong track record of discovering medicines in the UK which go on to make a difference to the lives of patients worldwide,” said UCB CEO, Jean-Christophe Tellier, in a statement. “I am delighted to have signed an agreement to secure this new campus for our U.K. hub, from which our scientists will be able to continue to develop their extensive collaborations with some of the most innovative universities, bio-techs and medical research charities, bringing even greater benefit for patients.”

Tellier added, “This new UK site will not only support our ambitions for future drug discovery but will be well-placed to enable us to achieve our 2030 global sustainability goals and provides an environment which supports the physical and mental wellbeing of our people – essential to helping us thrive.”

This isn’t the first acquisition under UCB’s belt. Earlier this summer, UCB announced the news that it had acquired clinical-stage pharmaceutical company Engage Therapeutics for an upfront cash payment of $125 million. Additional potential milestone payments of up to $145 million were also part of the deal. Engage was in the process of developing alprazolam, a single-use therapeutic for the rapid treatment of active epileptic seizures. The acquisition gave UCB worldwide rights to the therapy, in addition to giving them the power to take over further clinical development, submission, launch and commercialization procedures.


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