US-based contract research organisation (CRO) Covance is spending around US$175 million on converting a partially constructed pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Virginia into a 410,000sq ft early drug development laboratory.

Covance has acquired the facility on a 47-acre property in Prince William County’s Technology Park from Eli Lilly. It will be converted into a state-of-the-art early drug development laboratory offering safety testing and chemical analysis services. Covance plans to relocate some 450 current employees from its existing operations in Vienna and Chantilly, Virginia to the new site by 2011 and to hire an additional 100 employees at the facility by 2014.

Of the planned total investment of US$175 million, the company expects to receive about US$3.7 million in combined financial incentives from the Commonwealth of Virginia and Prince William County.

Covance, which has its global headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, said increased demand from biopharmaceutical clients for its preclinical safety services had prompted the company to look for opportunities to enhance and expand on its operations in Northern Virginia as well as to building on its multi-year global expansion plans.