Eli Lilly & Company

Uniting caring with discovery to make life better for people around the world.

Eli Lilly and Company has been in business for over 140 years. The global, research-based company was founded in May 1876 by Colonel Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the Midwestern section of the United States. A 38-year-old pharmaceutical chemist and a veteran of the U.S. Civil War, Colonel Lilly was frustrated by the poorly prepared, often ineffective medicines of his day. Consequently, he made these commitments to himself and to society:


  • He would found a company that manufactured pharmaceutical products of the highest possible quality.
  • His company would develop only medicines that would be dispensed at the suggestion of physicians rather than by travelling salesmen.
  • Lilly’s medicines would be based on the best science of the day.

Although his business flourished, Colonel Lilly was not satisfied with the traditional methods of testing the quality of his products. In 1886, he hired a young chemist to function as a full-time scientist, using and improving upon the newest techniques for quality evaluation. Together, they laid the foundation for the Lilly tradition: a dedication that first concentrated on the quality of existing products and later expanded to include the discovery and development of new and better medicines.

The Lilly name is a promise. The red script, an evolved version of our founder’s signature, is a sign of our proud past and our exciting future. Our promise is simple: Lilly unites caring with discovery to make life better for people around the world.


Milestones in our story

These are only a few; the dates represent the first time a medicine was made available, often in the United States, and may not correspond to availability in all countries around the world


1876:  Eli Lilly is established in Indianapolis, United States

1922:  Lilly researchers collaborated with scientists at the University of Toronto, Canada, to develop a process to mass-produce insulin.

1923:  Our first big breakthrough for patients came with Lilly's introduction of Iletin, the world's first commercially available insulin product for the treatment of diabetes, then a fatal disease with no effective treatment

1943:  Lilly was among the first companies to develop a method to mass-produce penicillin, the world's first antibiotic, marking the beginning of a sustained effort to fight infectious diseases.

1979:  Ceclor®, a member of the cephalosporin family of antibiotics (medicines that treat infections), was launched and eventually became the world's top-selling oral antibiotic.

1982:  Lilly introduced Humulin®, the world's first human insulin created using recombinant DNA technology. Human insulin is identical to that produced by the human body but made in the laboratory. Before human insulin was developed animal insulin was used. Humulin was the most significant breakthrough in diabetes care since the 1920s.

1987:  Lilly launched Prozac®, the first medicine in a new class of medicines – called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs for short) – for the treatment of clinical depression.

1996:  Lilly introduced Zyprexa® for the treatment of schizophrenia (a serious mental health condition) and Gemzar®, a drug for the treatment of pancreatic and non-small-cell lung cancer.

2002:  Cialis®, Lilly and a partner company called Icos launch a medication to treat male erectile dysfunction,

2004:  Lilly launches Strattera® – a new treatment for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD is a condition that makes a person inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive).

2005:  Lilly launches Cymbalta® for depression.

2009:  Efient® launches – treatment for the reduction of thrombotic cardiovascular events (including stent thrombosis) in patients with acute coronary syndromes who are managed with an artery-opening procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

2013: Lilly celebrates 25 years of dementia research and reaffirms the commitment to make the dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease preventable by 2025