Lilly’s soaring stock, Fishers’ innovation park among top 10 life sciences stories of 2023

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Lilly is investing heavily in new manufacturing and research facilities. (Photo courtesy of Eli Lilly and Co.)

It was a busy year for the Indiana life sciences community, with a flurry of billion-dollar deals, major announcements and a few setbacks. Here we present the top 10 stories of 2023—the good, the bad and the ugly—about an industry that is often hailed as a key driver of Indiana’s economy.

(Note: This rundown does not include health care providers, health insurers or public health efforts, which will be the subject of a future list.)

1. Indianapolis-based drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. was the talk of the town—and beyond—as its stock climbed to an all-time high of $629 per share in October. That lifted its market cap to more than a half-trillion dollars, the highest of any drugmaker or health care company in the world. That earned Lilly the comeback of the decade award, after slogging through a tough period not that long ago, when its drug pipeline was sputtering, sales were stagnant, and the company was whispered as a possible takeover target. Analysts say investors are excited again about Lilly’s pipeline and new drugs, including the recent launch of launch of Zepbound for obesity (containing the same active ingredient as the company’s Mounjaro for type 2 diabetes, which has quickly become a blockbuster since its launch last year) and the expected federal approval of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The fly in the ointment: some insurers say they won’t pay for the obesity drug, putting it out of reach for many customers, with a price tag of $1,059 a month, although some discount programs are available. Lilly’s stock has settled down a bit in recent weeks to the $580 range.

2. BioCrossroads, the organization dedicated to promoting Indiana’s life-sciences industry, marked its 20th birthday with some noteworthy statistics. In two decades, it has assisted more than 500 startup companies and raised more than $600 million of market capital. In the process, it can claim to have helped attract thousands of jobs to Indiana. But challenges remain. Patricia Martin, its president and CEO, stepped down in April, but eight months later, no successor has been named. And startup companies are beating the bushes for more money. A report published last year by TEConomy Partners LLC of Columbus, Ohio, said the need for capital to advance life sciences companies “is especially acute in Indiana.”

3. Even so, life science companies in Indiana raised a record $620 million in 2022, up 43% from a year earlier, according to BioCrossroads, which tracks the funding. Companies often use the venture funds to pay for expensive clinical trials and to develop and test prototypes. Investors give the companies money in exchange for partial ownership in the growing companies. The deal sizes ranged from $100,000 to $124 million. The funding went to 37 companies in the pharmaceutical, biotech, digital health, medical device and orthopedics sectors. (Figures for 2023 venture funding are not yet available.)

4. All eyes are on central Indiana’s radiopharmaceutical cluster, which continues to expand and attract big players. Just this month, Eli Lilly closed a deal to buy Indianapolis-based startup Point Biopharma, which has a pipeline of clinical and preclinical cancer drugs, for $1.4 billion. The move gives Lilly a toehold in a sector that is snowballing, with startup biotechs and large pharmaceutical companies alike spending billions of dollars in hopes of transforming how doctors and hospitals treat many cancers. Also entering the sector is New Jersey-based Bristol Myers Squibb, which is buying San Diego-based RayzeBio, a three-year-old startup that is building a radioisotopes factory on Indy’s northwest side, for $4.1 billion.

5. Indiana was designated as a federal technology hub in October, a move that life science advocates say will allow the state to compete for millions of dollars and boost its image as a biotech innovator. The U.S. Department of Commerce designated 31 federal technology hubs across the nation, making them eligible to compete for up to $70 million in federal funding to implement its program. Indiana’s winning application was submitted by Heartland BioWorks—a consortium of Hoosier entities that includes colleges and universities, industry groups and some of the state’s largest employers. The federal designation marks Indiana as a hub for biologics manufacturing. Biologics are medicines derived from biological sources and include vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and immune modulators.

6. Two large Bloomington life-science operations, Cook Medical and Catalent, shed hundreds of workers in major restructuring moves. Cook, based in Bloomington, said in May it was cutting about 500 jobs, or 4% of its global workforce, as part of a strategic refocusing on product innovation. New Jersey-based Catalent, a contract drug manufacturer, said in May it was cutting 150 jobs, on top of about 400 jobs slashed last year, as the demand for COVID-19 vaccines waned. Together, it was a setback to the Bloomington economy and to highly paid workers in the medical device and drug manufacturing sectors.

INCOG Biopharma’s manufacturing line can fill 40 million needles, vials and cartridges a year. (Photo courtesy of INCOG Biopharma)

7. Fishers emerged as a life sciences hub, as the city filled up the final eight acres of its 70-acre Life Science and Innovation Park, on Cumberland Road just east of Interstate 69. With the park, founded in 2021, Fishers is trying to establish itself as a life-sciences landing spot. The park is home to contract drug manufacturer INCOG Biopharma Services, South Korean manufacturer List Biotherapeutics, and Italian manufacturer of syringes, vials and glass containers Stevanato Group, among others.

8. Eli Lilly and Co. said in April it will invest an additional $1.6 billion in a new drug manufacturing site in Boone County that it announced last year at an initial price tag of $2.1 billion, bringing the total amount to $3.7 billion, the most the company has ever spent on a single manufacturing site. Lilly said the expanded manufacturing capacity will create 200 more jobs at the site, bringing the total to 700 jobs. The company said the huge expansion is needed to keep up with expected growing demand for its pharmaceutical products over the next decade.

9. Indiana University said in October it will invest more than $250 million to create two science and health research institutes in Indianapolis, recruit life-sciences researchers to Bloomington, and expand or renovate laboratory space at both campuses. IU President Pam Whitten said the moves would rival the largest investments made in these areas by the nation’s leading research universities and would significantly advance Indiana’s position as a leader in life sciences and biotechnology innovation. The announcement came as IU is transitioning the IUPUI campus to IU Indianapolis in 2024. Last year, trustees at IU and Purdue University agreed to ditch the IUPUI name and expand their operations in Indiana separately. IU said it would rebrand most of the campus as Indiana University Indianapolis. Purdue, which occupies just five of IUPUI’s 129 buildings, will continue to offer science and engineering programs under the Purdue brand.

10. One of many startup operations founded by Purdue chemistry professor Philip Low closed on a $30 million Series C funding round. On Target Laboratories Inc. plans to use the funding to accelerate commercialization of Cytalux, a molecular imaging agent used to illuminate cancer cells during surgery. Cytalux received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2021 for use in ovarian cancer patients. Just over a year later, the treatment landed a second FDA approval for lung cancer. Target Laboratories says the imaging agent enables surgeons to detect more cancer to be removed.

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