Lilly, With New Focus on Innovation (But Not Necessarily Inclusiveness), Opens San Diego Center for Biotech R&D

10/30/09Follow @bvbigelow

“Ouch.” I’m sorry to say I didn’t write about the grand opening that drug giant Eli Lilly held in La Jolla yesterday for its new biotechnology center of excellence. I didn’t know about it.

I wrote last December about the difficulty of getting information from Lilly about the status of its plans to combine Applied Molecular Evolution and SGX, and suggested a more appropriate name for the facility might be “Lilly’s San Diego Biotechnology Center of Silence.” I was pleasantly surprised afterward when a Lilly media rep cordially reached out to provide contact information, and assured me that I’d be included when Lilly’s new eco-friendly center was opened. Oops.

It was my own fault, of course, for failing to spot the announcement that Lilly moved on the PR Newswire yesterday. What can I say? I got busy. Such is the nature of this business. The media demands a lot of hand-holding. (But then, Lilly did tell me I would be included.)

The center is officially known as the Lilly Biotechnology Center—San Diego. In its statement yesterday, Lilly says of the nearly 200 scientists based at the center, more than half are from AME, a local biotech that Lilly acquired in 2004 that specializes in biotechnology-based therapies built specifically from human proteins. Many of the rest are from SGX Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego startup that Lilly acquired in 2008 and merged into its discovery chemistry research and technology division.

I have to say I don’t have an excuse for this one either: In a speech in downtown San Diego today, Lilly’s chairman and CEO John C. Lechleiter declared that the engine of biopharmaceutical innovation is broken. In a statement released by Lilly, Lechleiter says, “At a time when the world desperately needs more new medicines—for everything from H1N1 to Alzheimer’s disease – we’re taking too long, spending too much and producing far too little.”

I’m sorry to report that I didn’t know about this in advance either.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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