It’s not every day that the relatively obscure topic of cold chain management of pharmaceutical specimens would make the New York Times … but May 17 was one. The newspaper ran a detailed story on how a La Jolla, CA private research institute, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, is working with a laboratory in Hong Kong where some of the first actual samples of SARS-CoV-2 virus were isolated. Even in the midst of travel restrictions in both directions, the Sanford researchers sought to collaborate with the University of Hong Kong to test a battery of compounds for an antiviral effect via high-throughput screening.
According to the Times writeup, the screening machine was shipped to Hong Kong, but “when it was accidentally sent to mainland China, initiating a customs delay, [a lab manager] realized that the same thing could happen to the [compound] library, which had to stay frozen. So he found a company called World Courier that promised to refill the package with dry ice every few days.” The testing is ongoing; some candidate compounds have been isolated.
So, kudos to World Courier for being Johnny-on-the-spot to help the Sanford researchers. The story also highlights one of the constants of the cold chain / life sciences field: logistics matters, and preparing for upsets is a constant.
The NYT story, “Can ‘Team Science’ Yield a Covid-19 Treatment?” is available here.