Close connections to Italy and the world
In the span of 24 hours in Florence, members of the IU delegation went straight from engaging with one of Italy’s oldest industries — the creation of magnificent marble sculpture — to experiencing one of the country’s thriving 21st-century forms of business: high-tech manufacturing.
A historic announcement on Wednesday ushered in a new era of collaboration with the world-renowned Uffizi Gallery in Florence. On Thursday, delegation members took time to tour the Italian affiliate of an organization most familiar to those back home in Indiana and one with a longstanding and productive relationship with IU: Eli Lilly.
Eli Lilly Italy is headquartered in the Sesto Fiorentino area of Florence, which is only about a 30-minute drive from the Uffizi, the famed Florence cathedral (Il Duomo di Firenze) and other main sights of the city. Now more than 50 years old, it is home to one of Italy’s largest sites for the production of pharmaceutical medicines, with about 1,100 employees who work in a state-of-the-art, 43,000-square-foot office and manufacturing facility neatly ensconced beneath the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany. Recently, the Great Place to Work Institute ranked Lilly Italy in the top 10 of the best working environments in the world.
Lilly’s Sesto manufacturing plant, which represents around 2.5 percent of Lilly’s overall global revenue, is one of the largest facilities for biotech products in Italy and the only site in the country to produce insulin. For more than a dozen years now, the plant’s primary mission has been to provide insulin products, including cartridges and pre-filled devices of human insulin and insulin analogues, to more than 50 markets around the world.
Among its core products is Humalog, a designer insulin discovered by IU Distinguished Professor Richard DiMarchi, a highly respected international authority in the discovery, development and manufacture of new drugs who spent 22 years as a senior research scientist at Eli Lilly.
The DiMarchi connection is just one of many links in the long legacy of collaboration and cooperation between IU and Lilly. The current chair of the IU Board of Trustees, Randy Tobias, is Lilly’s former chairman and CEO. Another trustee, Derica Rice, currently serves as the company’s executive vice president for global services and CFO.
IU’s relationship with Lilly has extended into other key areas as well. The Lilly Endowment, one of the world’s largest private philanthropic foundations, has been extraordinarily generous to IU and other universities around Indiana, providing them with millions of dollars of funding for educational, entrepreneurship and research initiatives. The Lilly Foundation has also supported IU’s efforts to strengthen higher education around the state. And not to be forgotten, of course, is the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, founded in 2012 and globally recognized as the first of its kind. The school’s mission is to increase the understanding of philanthropy and improve its practice worldwide.
If today’s introductory meeting offered any indication, the bond between IU and Lilly, specifically with regard to their global efforts, is likely to only get stronger in subsequent years. With its active undergraduate exchange partnerships around the world, including several that delegation members will celebrate in the next few days, IU aims to provide its students with a globalized curriculum and the type of practical experience, including internships with foreign companies, they need to succeed in the international marketplace. In turn, Lilly Italy is seeking to find ways to enhance the competencies of its workforce and find partners, including colleges and universities foreign and domestic, who can help the company respond to the pharmaceutical industry’s ever-evolving needs.
Delegation members wrapped up their time at Lilly Italy with a tour of the manufacturing plant, where they were given a first-hand look at how the company works to isolate, produce, sterilize and package its insulin products. An intricate and complex process, it relies on the efficient and effective combination of highly skilled manpower and new technology, a combination that has been so successful here in Sesto Fiorentino that Lilly will seek to replicate it in Indianapolis, as well as in France and China.
Indeed, there was much to admire and appreciate about Lilly’s Italian headquarters on a day that offered compelling evidence of the power of global engagement and IU’s closeness to Italy, Europe and the world.
Next stop: Bologna.
Tags: Eli Lilly Italy, Florence, Italy, IU Department of Medicine, IU School of Medicine, Lilly, Lilly Endowment, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Lilly Foundation, Lilly Italy, Michael A. McRobbie, pharmaceutical industry, Uffizi Gallery