Friday, January 19, 2007

More on the Eli Lilly Decision

Here is an article from the Washington Examiner...

Loss of Lilly’s name recognition a setback for region’s biotech industry
Katie Wilmeth, The Examiner
Jan 15, 2007 3:00 AM

WASHINGTON - The cancellation of the $325 million insulin manufacturing plant being built by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly in Prince William County is a clear blow to the Washington area’s growing biotechnology industry, but economic development officials said it shouldn’t hurt the region in the long run.

“Certainly it’s a setback,” said Jason Grant, a spokesman for the Prince William County Department of Economic Development. “The setback is you lose that internationally recognizable name. From a marketing standpoint, Lilly was very successful for us.”

The Washington region has been an up-and-comer in the biotech industry for a number of years, but it has struggled to make the transition from a research and development center to one with commercially viable products. The success of the industry hinges on securing more publicly traded companies and bringing in more drug manufacturing companies, said Tim Priest, executive director of the Greater Washington Initiative, the organization charged with promoting the region to potential business.

Lilly would have brought both. The Indianapolis-based corporation is one of the most high-profile pharmaceutical companies in the world and would have boosted the credibility of a region that has depended largely on start-up companies for its industry’s growth. But homegrown success stories like Gaithersburg-based MedImmune are few and far between.

Economic development officials were quick to point out that despite the loss of Lilly, the region — and Northern Virginia in particular — has grown significantly in the last few years. Northern Virginia has made a big push and invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build its biotech industry and catch up with Montgomery County, which is well-known outside the region as a hub for bioscience. George Mason University’s Prince William County campus is dedicated solely to life sciences, and the county’s Innovation Technology Park has attracted several new biotech firms. In Loudoun County, the opening of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s $500 million research campus, Janelia Farm, has brought international recognition to the region.

Lilly’s decision “is a really unfortunate development for the region,” said Mark Herzog, executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association. “It’s regrettable that they would choose not to fulfill the plans for the project in Prince William ... but certainly Prince Williams’ Innovation Park was not just about Eli Lilly. There’s quite a few major bioscience facilities that are either there right now or being developed.”

Lilly selected Prince William County for its manufacturing plant over 300 other possible sites in the U.S., said Priest, and the region has only matured since that 2002 selection.

“The reasons [Lilly] picked it are as solid today just as when they did in 2002,” Priest said. “This is a step back but they’re still growing.”

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