At the IQPC Cold Chain Pharma meeting (Philadelphia, Sept. 19-23), UPS Healthcare Logistics showed off the PharmaPort 360, a newly approved “semi-active” shipping container—and with a UPS logo slapped on the side, in recognition of the one-year exclusive use agreement in life sciences it negotiated with Cool Containers LLC (Marietta, OH), developers of the unit. The unit will be incorporated into UPS Healthcare Logistics’ Temperature True program, which offers temperature-controlled shipping and storage, proactive monitoring and priority shipping.
The PharmaPort 360, first shown a couple years ago, has an interesting combination of features: It can carry a pallet-size load of product, and has a metal outer surface—two features it shares with competing units from Envirotainer and CSafe. Like those units, it has self-contained heating and cooling machinery—but unlike them, the cooling is provided “regeneratively,” and the refrigerator coil does not run during shipment, and doesn’t vent to the surrounding environment, two hallmarks of a fully “active” unit. It is also small enough to be used in both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft. The regenerative technology makes use of eutectic plates (metal sheets with strong heat- or cold-absorption characteristics) and a simple fan; a temperature sensor tells the fan when to blow cool or warm air over the inner volume. Cold chain (2-8°C) conditions can be maintained for 100 hours at 23°C ambient. FAA provided flight approval last spring for the unit, which was originally developed by Farrar Scientific, a laboratory-equipment manufacturer in Marietta; Cool Containers has been formed to commercialize the technology.
UPS says that it will also take advantage of built-in GPS/GSM communications technology, via the Elpro Libero datalogger (Elpro Services, also in Marietta), to provide near real-time tracking of the unit. (“Near” real-time means that the unit doesn’t transmit while an aircraft is in flight, but at any other point in transit.) As Mark Davis, UPS product manager, notes, “Real-time tracking is only meaningful when you are able to intervene, and for us that will mean that we can proactively manage the PharmaPort’s position and operations while in transit.”