Covance and Eli Lilly have expanded their long-term strategic alliance with a three-year biotechnology services agreement.

Under the new agreement, Lilly will transfer analytical testing for bioproducts to a new US$15 million biotechnology facility under construction by Covance on the Greenfield, Indiana campus it bought from Lilly as part of the original research and development alliance announced in August 2008.

The US-based contract research organisation (CRO) has offered jobs to around 20 Lilly employees under the agreement, while Lilly will “continue to retain a handful of oversight roles to the business”, the companies said.

The expanded relationship was one of the key milestones in the first year of the partnership announced by executives from Covance and Lilly at an Indiana Life Sciences Collaboration Conference in the US state. The landmark alliance “has been a win-win for both companies, enabling Lilly to expedite the flow of innovation within its pipeline”, the partners commented.

Under the original deal in August 2008, Covance acquired Lilly’s preclinical research facility in Indiana for US$50 million, as well as hiring 264 former Lilly employees and assuming responsibility for all of the company’s testing and discovery support activities at Greenfield. The packaging of services with Covance is projected to save Lilly “tens of millions of dollars a year” in drug discovery and development costs.

Among the other first-year milestones cited were:

- More than 95% of the Lilly employees who accepted positions at Covance more than a year ago are still with the company. Since October 2008, Covance has hired over 70 new employees at Greenfield. The CRO plans to add more than 300 extra staff there in the coming years as it continues to grow its business.

- Lilly and Covance identified a path to achieving Lilly’s goal of ‘1,000 Days to Patient’ by reducing drug development cycle times. The 1,000 days start when Lilly researchers have identified a lead molecule for clinical testing and end when Phase II efficacy studies begin in patients.

- Covance successfully conducted 3,800 studies for Lilly in 2009, from discovery through to Phase III clinical trials. These studies “were conducted on-time and error free, helping Lilly with its goal of speeding innovation to patients”, the companies said.

Covance has also provided R&D services to some 20 other biopharmaceutical companies from Greenfield, enabling further investment and growth at the campus.