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Eli Lilly Expanding NYC Labs for Cancer Therapies

Molecular biology lab

Molecular biology lab at Eli Lilly and Co. in New York (A. Kotok)

9 October 2015. The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company is expanding its research labs in New York City to boost discoveries of cancer therapies that harness the immune system. Lilly expects to hire 50 more research and support staff as part of the expansion.

The company’s new facility will inhabit 30,000 square feet in a building next door to its current labs in the Alexandria Center for Life Science on Manhattan’s east side, beginning in September 2016. The expanded labs in New York are the third new or expanded research facility announced by the company this year, including a drug delivery and device research center in Cambridge, Massachusetts — as reported in Science & Enterprise — and enlarged biotechnology labs in San Diego. Lilly’s headquarters and main research labs are in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Lilly moved into the Alexandria Center in 2010, to accommodate its acquisition of the biotechnology company ImClone two years earlier. The new space is expected to help bolster Lilly’s pipeline in immunotherapies, treatments for cancer and other disorders that the company acquired with ImClone. Immunotherapies focus on molecular targets that stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells. Cancer deactivates or bypasses the immune system, which allows for cancer cells to proliferate and tumors to grow.

The new labs will  expand on the company’s current immunotherapy work in New York. Lilly’s researchers today engineer and clone reagent proteins, which are introduced into living mammalian cells, then cultured to produce proteins, including antibodies, that serve as targets for discovery of therapies. After new humanized antibodies are produced, they’re submitted for preclinical testing, and later for clinical trials.

The expanded New York labs, say company executives speaking to Science & Enterprise, will make it easier to collaborate with researchers in nearby universities and medical centers, particularly in quantitative biology that’s taking on a greater role in its drug discovery work. Greg Plowman, Lilly’s vice-president for oncology research who oversees the New York labs, says the 50 new staff will include bioinformatics specialists who work with molecular and cellular biologists to discover new immunotherapy candidates. Plowman adds that the labs will also serve as a regional hub for collaborations, with some external venture funding available to support entrepreneurs eager to commercialize promising research ideas.

Jan Lundberg, executive vice president for research and development, says Lilly is interested in collaborating on drug discovery with researchers in academic labs. He notes, “The next generation of collaborations is with academics,” and the company now provides more opportunities for partnering, including open-innovation programs. The company’s labs, including those in New York, refine and optimize therapy candidates, and Lundberg says the company is willing to share the outputs with academic colleagues.

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