Lilly goes big on RNA research with $700m Boston plant

Through the construction of a $700 million site in the Boston Seaport area, Eli Lilly aims to advance RNA based therapeutics.

The facility, which will be known as the Lilly Institute for Genetic Medicine is part of the firm’s strategy to develop RNA based therapeutics using DNA-based technologies that can treat or prevent diseases that is difficult or not possible with traditional medicines.

“The Institute will pair cutting-edge technologies with Lilly’s deep biological expertise in neuroscience, immunology, diabetes, and other disease areas – focusing on medicines acting at the nucleic acid level to advance an entirely new class that target the root cause of diseases, an approach that is fundamentally different than medicines available today,” a spokesperson for Lilly told us.

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The institute will be located on 334,000 square feet of leased space in an existing 12-story building in the Seaport district of Boston, which will be occupied by 2024. And within five years, the firm predicts the Boston site will increase from 120 employees to more than 250 research biologists, data scientists, chemists, and experts in the field.

Meanwhile, Lilly looks to up its headcount at its New York site to up to 200 scientists. The firm gained the site through its acquisition of Prevail Therapeutics, which saw it add a pipeline of neuroscience assets for an $880 million upfront payment in December 2020.

“The Institute will serve as the headquarters for an integrated genetic research ecosystem spanning both Boston and New York, with the infrastructure and connectivity across Lilly to speed new medicines from the lab to clinical trials, and ultimately our patients,” the spokesperson said.

The Boston Seaport site will have a shared space, which the company say is modelled on its Lilly Gateway Labs in San Francisco. The shared space will aim to support biotech start-ups in the Boston area and once fully occupied, it anticipates creating as many as 150 additional jobs.