World Courier fills a key gap in the race for Covid-19 treatment

California researchers needed to find a way to collaborate with their counterparts in Hong Kong


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.