CLAYTON – The global diabetes and obesity epidemic is driving another expansion of Novo Nordisk’s drug-manufacturing operations at its 264-acre campus in Clayton.

The company will begin a $65 million expansion by the end of this year that will likely add almost two dozen new positions, said Chad Henry, corporate vice president and general manager of the Clayton site.

The expansion is for Novo Nordisk’s growing Diabetes Finished Products (DFP) facility, responsible for the formulation, filling, inspection, assembly and packaging of diabetes and obesity medicines. Construction should be completed by the fourth quarter of 2019, with full operations starting in 2020, Henry said.

“We will need the additional production capacity to fulfil the growing demand for our diabetes and obesity medicines,” he said.

The company is in the midst of a separate $2 billion expansion of its production facility for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for use in a range of current and future diabetes medicines.

Once both facilities are operational in 2020, they will total about 1.4 million square feet and will employ about 1,500 full-time workers, Henry said.

Clayton facility to add 300 employees in 2018

The company currently has 1,070 full-time employees and expects to hire about 300 more in 2018, mostly manufacturing associates and technicians for the API expansion, as well as positions in IT, automation, metrology and others for both sites, he said.

On its employee-recruitment web page, Novo Nordisk says, “Creating the facilities for a revolutionary life-changing medicine is a significant project with long-term impact for the world at large. Solving the challenges of building the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturing facility combined with the growth and learning potential available at Novo Nordisk represents significant potential advantage for one’s long-term career prospects.”

The company’s API operations will formulate ingredients for Novo Nordisk’s portfolio of diabetes medicines, including insulins and liraglutide. Formulation of semaglutide “may be a consideration for this site in the future,” Henry said.

Liraglutide, marketed as Victoza, and semaglutide, marketed as Ozempic, are non-insulin GLP-1 drugs. That’s shorthand for glucagon-like peptide-1, a hormone that can decrease blood sugar levels by stimulating the secretion of insulin.

Therapy linked to weight loss, lowering blood sugar

GLP-1-based treatments are linked to weight loss and reduced hypoglycemia, important factors for people who have Type 2 diabetes.

Victoza is a once-daily injectable for lowering blood sugar in adults with Type 2 diabetes. It has been on the market since 2010 but received approval in August 2017 for a new indication: reducing the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death in adults with Type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease.

Ozempic, a once-weekly injectable approved by the FDA late last year, was launched this week as an adjunct to diet and exercise to control glycemic levels in adults with Type 2 diabetes. Some in the industry expect it to achieve blockbuster sales, as Victoza has done.

Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, executive vice president and chief science officer of Novo Nordisk, said in December, “Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease, but with the unique clinical profile of Ozempic, we believe it has the potential to set a new standard for the treatment of the disease.”

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center