[This report has been updated with details of economic incentives approved for Novo Nordisk by Johnston County, NC]

Novo Nordisk said it will spend $4.1 billion to build a second fill-finish plant at its campus in Clayton, NC, the biotech giant’s latest move to meet rising demand for its blockbuster obesity drugs by bolstering manufacturing capacity for current and future injectable treatments.

The new fill-finish plant will add 1,000 jobs to Novo Nordisk’s nearly 2,500-person workforce in North Carolina, as well as 1.4 million square feet of space for aseptic manufacturing and finished production processes. That’s double the combined square footage of Novo Nordisk’s three existing facilities in the Tar Heel State.

Novo Nordisk said the new plant will be one of the largest manufacturing investments in company history.

“It took us a century to reach 40 million patients, but through this expansion and continued investment in our global production, we’re building Novo Nordisk’s ability to serve millions more people living with serious chronic diseases in the future,” Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, president and CEO of Novo Nordisk, said in a statement. “This is yet another real signal of our efforts to scale up our production to meet the growing global need for our life-changing medicines and the patients of tomorrow.”

Novo Nordisk has begun early clearing and foundational work to prepare the 56-acre facility footprint. Construction will gradually be finalized between 2027 and 2029.

Novo Nordisk is among drug developers and other biotechs that are intent on drawing upon the state’s skilled labor force—and in many cases, economic incentives totaling tens of millions of dollars—by developing manufacturing sites in North Carolina

Incentives Approved for Novo Nordisk

In return for Novo Nordisk building its second fill-finish plant in Clayton, the Johnston County, NC, Board of Commissioners agreed to amend an earlier incentive agreement with the company. Under the County’s Economic Development Incentive Grant (EDIG) program, Novo Nordisk will receive two grants totaling a percentage of what the County’s tax office determines to be the value of the company’s real and personal property.

Novo Nordisk will receive the grants after it has paid its taxes annually and after it meets investment and job creation benchmarks, Christopher Johnson, Director of the Johnston County Economic Development Office, told GEN.

“Novo hasn’t given us a breakdown estimate on what will be real property value and what will be considered personal property value.  But based on the $4.1 billion estimate, the range of the grants could be $175 million to $200 million total over the 12-year period,” Johnson said. “The grant may be adjusted as well if the current .67 ad valorem tax rate is lowered or raised.”

That tax rate, which is 67 cents per $100 of property value, reflects the new rate for the County’s fiscal year starting July 1, which the Board last week lowered nearly 3% from .69 or 69 cents per $100 of property value.

Last month, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies president and CEO Lars Petersen discussed with GEN Edge his company’s decision to invest an additional $1.2 billion into the end-to-end biomanufacturing facility it is constructing in Holly Springs, NC, creating a $3 billion facility.

In North Carolina, Novo Nordisk already operates the Injectable Finished Products facility in Clayton, established as the company’s first U.S. manufacturing location for diabetes and obesity medicines 30+ years ago. Also in Clayton, the company has a plant that produces the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) for Rybelsus® (semaglutide), approved in 2019 as the first oral GLP-1 treatment for type II diabetes.

More than 40 miles northwest in Durham, NC, the company operates its Oral Finished Products (OFP) facility, which provides packaging capacity and is gearing up to provide tableting for Rybelsus.

Global expansion

The new fill-finish plant also reflects Novo Nordisk’s ongoing global expansion of its manufacturing capacity. The company says it is spending $6.8 billion on production initiatives this year, up 74% from the $3.9 billion spent in 2023.

Earlier this year, Novo Nordisk agreed to buy three fill-finish sites from Catalent for $11 billion upfront as part of a deal in which Novo Holdings, the asset manager of the foundation that controls Novo Nordisk, agreed to acquire the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) for $16.5 billion.

Novo Nordisk commands the largest sales through its blockbuster adult type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic® (semaglutide), which shares the same active ingredient as its obesity drug Wegovy® (semaglutide injection).

During the first quarter, Ozempic sales leaped 42% year-over-year, from DKK 19.640 billion ($2.826 billion) to DKK 27.810 billion ($4.002 billion). Wegovy sales more than doubled, soaring 106% from DKK 4.563 billion ($656.602 million) to DKK 9.377 billion ($1.349 billion).

Novo Nordisk’s announcement of the new Clayton plant comes about a month after a major manufacturing facility announcement from Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk’s arch-rival in developing blockbuster obesity and diabetes drugs targeting glucagon-like peptide receptor 1 (GLP-1).

Lilly markets the type 2 diabetes drug Mounjaro® (tirzepatide), whose active ingredient is the same one in Zepbound®, which won FDA approval last November as a treatment for adults with obesity or who are overweight. During the first quarter, Mounjaro revenue had more than tripled year-over-year, zooming 218% from $568.5 million to $1.807 billion, while Zepbound racked up $517.4 million.

On May 24, Lilly announced plans to expand its manufacturing site roughly 30 miles northwest of its Indianapolis headquarters in Lebanon, IN, by building a $5.3 billion plant designed to produce API for Mounjaro and Zepbound. Lilly has committed more than $16 billion toward building new manufacturing sites in the United States and Europe, in sites that include North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park and Concord, NC, as well as Limerick, Ireland, and Alzey, Germany.

Previous articlePan-Cancer Proteogenomics Unlocks New Therapeutic Targets and Insights
Next articleAI-Based Approach, DiffPALM, Helps Determine Protein-Protein Interactions