N.C.: Town Morphs From 'Farm to Pharm' in Diabetes Scourge
Novo Nordisk is constructing a $1.8 billion plant in Clayton, N.C., population 20,000. The small town sits on the edge of a region known as the "diabetes belt" and the new plant will make the active ingredients for different diabetes medicines. While some residents welcome the new jobs that come with the plant, others miss the loss of Clayton's farming past.
Previously, Novo Nordisk had made its active pharmaceutical ingredients in Denmark — leaving facilities like the one in Clayton, first established in 1993, to manufacture devices or assemble packaging. Soon, though, two main classes of diabetes medicine will be made here: insulin injectables and GLP-1, a hormone that stimulates insulin production, first derived from the venom of Gila monsters. Each building at the Clayton plant will house a different stage of drug production: fermentation, recovery, and purification.
Faced with growing demand, a Novo Nordisk spokesperson said its plant would “ensure diabetes production capacity in the U.S. for the decade ahead.” But exactly which products will be made remains unclear. In 2016, the same year Novo Nordisk broke ground here, company execs shelved a program to develop oral insulin, an effort that top company scientists have described as the “Holy Grail” for diabetic patients given the potential for increasing compliance.