Lechleiter: Community Important to Lilly Future

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Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter says the company's future will involve "a more forward-leaning approach" on education and issues relating to inclusion. In an extended interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, Lechleiter also says involvement in community issues will continue to be important for the company's future. "We believe what our founders made so clear," said Lechleiter. "The health of our business depends a heck of a lot on the health of the community."

Lechleiter says after weathering one of the most difficult periods in its history, the company has returned to growth. "The so-called YZ period of patent expirations is behind us," said Lechleiter, who points to the launch of new medicines in diabetes and cancer and Lilly's strongest mid- to late-stage pipeline ever among reasons for optimism. In late 2016, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to rule on potential blockbuster Alzheimer's and cardiovascular drugs.

Under Lechleiter's leadership, Lilly has taken "a more 'forward-leaning approach' than we might have historically" on education. Earlier this year, Lilly made a high profile commitment to raise $10 million to help fund an early childhood education initiative in Indianapolis. The company wrote a $2 million check to jump-start the effort.

Lechleiter was also among a group of Indiana CEOs helping to broker a compromise in the contentious Religious Freedom Restoration Act debate at the Indiana Statehouse. "Unfortunately, it had an impact and we can't sort of reel it back in," reflected Lechleiter. "The important thing is we did reach a compromise and I think we set the stage for another round of discussions coming up."

Lechleiter believes Lilly and other private sector companies have a responsibility to help shape Indiana's economic future, which is dependent upon a talented work force. "I see the emergence of a new, digital work force in Indianapolis, it's happening all around us," notes Lechleiter, who views technology and life sciences companies as keys to further diversifying the state's manufacturing-heavy economy. "Let's continue to work for policies that enable people to start and sustain businesses. Let's try to build a social structure and a culture than encourages smart graduates to stay here. It's up to us to make that happen."

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