Lilly To Keep Buying Companies As Patents Expire

Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly

Eli Lilly will continue to buy biopharma and animal health companies to grow after patents on some of its best-selling drugs expire, its chief executive said Thursday.

"We’ll be particularly focused on acquisitions that can help us bring products to the market in the next three or four years when we’re losing our patents," John Lechleiter told CNBC. He did not give a timetable for the acquisitions or say which companies the drug giant is considering.

Another growth area for Lilly is China, he said. "China is going to continue to be a very important place for us. There's an enormous medical need in China (and) an opportunity for Lilly for the kinds of medicines we offer."

Lilly is opening a research center in Shanghai later this year and is building a second manufacturing plant in China. But another reason for expanding in China is to keep Chinese researchers on Lilly's research and development payroll.

"It’s fair to say as we try to hire some of the very best people today from American universities that they happen to be Chinese," he said. "We’re not always able to get them permanent visas to stay in this country. So by having a research center in China I believe we’re going to have an opportunity to keep some people we’d otherwise lose."