US drug major Eli Lilly says it has completed the first phase of a $560 million expansion to its biotechnology complex in Indianapolis.

The investment is part of a $1 billion effort to strengthen and build the company's biotechnology drug research and bioprocessing capabilities.

During a ceremony at its Indianapolis site, company officials dedicated what they described as "the crown jewel" of the first phase of construction - a state-of-the-art bioproducts pilot manufacturing plant that will help the company bring advanced biotech medicines to patients through more efficient, productive and dependable manufacturing processes.

Lilly also announced the opening of a research support facility, into which 700 scientists, engineers and support staff will relocate.

Lilly initially revealed the plans for this biotechnology complex in 2002. In 2004, they were "expanded to nearly twice their original size to better meet the company's pipeline of biotechnology drugs," the firm said, pointing out that around 30% of its total portfolio is in biotechnology, representing about $3.6 billion of its 2005 sales.

- Meanwhile, Lilly has decided to clsoe down a site in Basingstoke, UK, after deliberating on its future since June. The site will now close unless another pharmaceutical firm agrees to take it over before the end of 2006. Of the 430 employees currently working in Basingstoke, between 40 and 60 will be relocated to Eli Lilly's other sites in the UK and 100 will be eligible for retirement, leaving between 270 and 290 facing redundancy.