Novo Nordisk plans $4.1B Johnston Co. expansion

In the largest capital investment ever in North Carolina’s life sciences, Novo Nordisk plans to invest $4.1 billion to expand its fill and finish operations in Johnston County, creating 1,000 new jobs and adding 1.4 million square feet of new manufacturing space.

The new facility will expand the Danish company’s current operations in Clayton and will grow the company’s ability to produce injectable treatments for people with diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases. 

Novo Nordisk Clayton
Rendering of planned Novo Nordisk facility in Clayton. -Images from Novo Nordisk

This is one of Novo Nordisk’s largest manufacturing investments in its 101-year history. The new facility will double the combined square footage of all three of the company’s existing facilities in N.C. It will be the company's largest facility in the U.S.

“It took us a century to reach 40 million patients, but through this expansion and continued investment in our global production, we’re building Novo Nordisk’s ability to serve millions more people living with serious chronic diseases in the future,” said Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, president and CEO of Novo Nordisk, in a company statement. “This is yet another real signal of our efforts to scale up our production to meet the growing global need for our life-changing medicines and the patients of tomorrow.”

Novo Nordisk makes the GLP-1 diabetes and weight-management drug semaglutide, known as Wegovy and Ozempic, in addition to insulin and other products to treat diabetes. Semaglutide has been in demand since its initial FDA approval as a diabetes treatment in 2017. The FDA approved it for weight management in 2021. Earlier this year, the FDA also approved semaglutide to help prevent life-threatening cardiovascular events in adults with cardiovascular disease and either obesity or overweight. 

“It’s a historic day for Johnston County,” said Butch Lawter, chair of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. “Thirty-one years ago, Novo Nordisk decided to make a new home here in Clayton. Then, in 2016, they announced a new facility right across the street - the single largest life sciences investment on state record at the time. Today, they’re breaking that record again… with a third facility, 1,000 new jobs and a vote of confidence in the partnerships we have forged in the community over the decades.”

Johnston County commissioners earlier on June 24 approved an update to a 12-year economic incentive package it first approved in 2022, to further support the expansion project.

Record-breaking announcement

The announcement, made Monday at an event at the Clayton facility, is the largest such capital investment by any life sciences company in N.C. FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’ $2 billion investment in Holly Springs was the largest previous announcement.

In the past year or so, Novo Nordisk has acquired more than 175 acres of land near its existing Clayton facility. Novo Nordisk plans for the facility to be LEED Gold certified, utilizing state-of-the-art technology, roof-top solar panels and innovative water strategies, to deliver its products in an efficient and environmentally sustainable way. Pre-construction work is already underway on the 56-acre facility footprint site, with construction expected to finish between 2027 and 2029. About 2,000 external contractors will be engaged on the project. 

Novo Nordisk Clayton 2
Rendering of planned Novo Nordisk facility in Clayton.

Although wages will vary depending on the position, the average annual salary for Novo Nordisk’s new positions will be $70,000, exceeding Johnston County’s average annual wage of $50,605.

Novo Nordisk already has more than 2,200 employees at its facilities in Clayton and Durham.

“Novo Nordisk has demonstrated itself to be a committed and invested partner in the North Carolina life sciences community,” said Laura Rowley, Ph.D., vice president of life sciences economic development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. “Today’s announcement marks the start of what will undoubtedly be another successful chapter for the company in North Carolina.” 

Staying involved with the community

Since initially establishing its N.C. presence, Novo Nordisk has reinvested in the state several times. In 2015, the company announced it would be investing between $1.2 billion and $1.7 billion to double its N.C. workforce – at the time, the largest life sciences investment in N.C. In fact, N.C. is one of only a few sites entrusted with manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) for the company.

Novo Nordisk has become a trusted partner to the life sciences in N.C. since it began operations in Clayton more than 30 years ago. The company has supported workforce development, education initiatives, and other life sciences community efforts throughout its time in N.C.

In fact, Novo Nordisk is an instrumental member of the Accelerate NC – Life Sciences Manufacturing Coalition that successfully secured a $25 million U.S. Economic Development Administration Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) grant. The company’s leadership and willingness to provide matching funds in support of one element, the HBCU/HAIU Coalition project, is just one demonstration of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion to strengthen N.C.’s talent pipeline. 

In addition to being a founding member of the North Carolina Life Sciences Apprenticeship Consortium, Novo Nordisk was among the first companies to establish registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) and hire apprentices via the partnership. 

Novo construction site
A beam at the Novo Nordisk construction site. The beam
is signed by officials who attended the announcement event. 
-Photo by NCBiotech

In 2023, Novo Nordisk was named Johnston Community College’s Business and Industry Partner of the Year in recognition of the company’s integral role in the continued success of the Johnston County Workforce Center and events like JOCO WORKS that provided career exploration opportunities for local 8th graders, and more. 

Investing in education, training

In fall 2023, Johnston Community College and Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS), with support from Novo Nordisk and Grifols, partnered to offer BioWork in all of Johnston County’s traditional public high schools. BioWork is a statewide certification program that teaches the fundamentals of working as a process technician in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or chemical manufacturing facilities. Johnston County high school juniors and seniors will be able to complete the free course in one semester, as part of a pre-apprenticeship, through the Career and College Promise program. More than 80 JCPS students enrolled in BioWork the first semester it was offered. 

In October 2019, a public-private partnership cut the ribbon for a regional industrial wastewater pretreatment facility in Clayton worth $40 million. The Clayton Town Council unanimously accepted the facility as a donation from Novo Nordisk. 

The R. Steven Biggs Regional Wastewater Pretreatment Facility serves Novo Nordisk’s API manufacturing facility with the potential to include other companies in the North Carolina BioPharma Crescent region.

In January 2023, Novo Nordisk announced a $6 million gift to Durham Technical Community College to support the school’s life sciences program and a new 35,000-square-foot Life Sciences Training Center. The donation was part of Novo Nordisk’s decades-long effort to support the growth of the local biotechnology sector. The company said that a top priority is to ensure that the region has a strong, resilient workforce for the future, as the company looked then to expand its biomanufacturing operations.

With the support of Novo Nordisk, Durham Tech will be able to: 

  • Establish a Biotechnology Associate of Applied Science degree program (for current college students);
  • Create onsite training for biotechnology career transition programs to upskill/reskill existing employees and other related workforce training partnerships;
  • Ensure students are prepared on biotechnology equipment; and
  • Provide outreach and awareness for area middle and high school students.

As part of the ongoing partnership with Durham Tech, Novo Nordisk will have one full-time and one part-time employee serve in the professor-in-residence program; offer apprenticeships, internships and scholarship programs; and purchase select necessary biotech training equipment for the new Center. The new Life Sciences Training Center is expected to be completed in 2026.

North Carolina’s life sciences ecosystem has also benefitted from collaborations supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, an independent Danish foundation with major ownership stakes in Novo Nordisk. Announced in 2019 and funded by a $27 million Novo Nordisk Foundation grant, the Accelerated Innovation in Manufacturing Biologics (AIM-Bio) project between NC State University’s Biomanufacturing Training & Education Center (BTEC) and the Technical University Denmark is focused on international collaboration for both research and training in biomanufacturing. 

For questions or more information, contact:
Chris Capot
Director, Public Relations Corporate Communications 919-549-8889 |

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