For several years now, life sciences logistics managers could count on new products to address evolving needs in temperature-controlled shipping of pharma, biotech and med device products; that trend was being accelerated at this year’s IQPC Global Cold Chain Forum (Boston, MA, Sept. 26–30). Vendors are not only unveiling new products, they’re also previewing future products in this increasingly competitive specialized market.
Cases in point:
Pelican BioThermal has expanded its Chronos line of single-use, passive containers from sizes of 6 to 96 liters, with packout designs for both 2-8°C and 15-25°C temperature ranges. The company is also displaying its TIC indicator, a temperature sensor embedded in the insulation panels of a container to enable speedy verification of pre-conditioning.
Sonoco ThermoSafe is resurrecting, in a fashion, the PharmaPort “semi-active” unit-load device for air cargo, which had been introduced years ago, underwent a couple changes in ownership, and now will complement the company’s extensive line of single-use, passive containers. Sonoco ThermoSafe acquired the intellectual property and marketing rights last month; new units will continue to be constructed by AAR, an air-equipment and maintenance company that also provides a global service network for PharmaPort users.
Jarden Life Sciences will have its new ePUR passive containers on display; the technology features a reformulated version of polyurethane (PUR) insulation that is lower in weight, but higher in insulation properties, than conventional PURs, according to the company.
Sensitech, a leader in electronic dataloggers for cold chain shipping, will be displaying its TempTale 4 GEO unit, which adds geolocation reporting to the condition monitoring it has performed for years.
Q Products and TP3 Global, two leaders in thermal blanketing technology, are announcing a collaborative agreement, which is expected to “result in a wide range of value-added programs, an advanced technologies division and a world class customer experience,” according to a joint statement from the two organizations. Q Products is known for its CargoQuilt and PalletQuilt brands; TP3 for Silverskin blankets. Thermal blanketing is reportedly taking off in the market as life sciences suppliers adjust to the need for a higher degree of control over ambient-condition shipping, i.e., the need to establish technical and process capabilities for controlled room-temperature shipping (which is essentially everything except refrigerated shipping).
Lower-cost electronic temperature indicators, which could be reused but are economical as single-use devices, will be shown by, among others, SenseGeni and OceaSoft. Both companies back up these devices with data-collection systems that employ Bluetooth or similar short-range communications to enable data to be transmitted with minimal effort. (Both also tout the ability to make this linkage through a smartphone, which can then transmit the data to a cloud-based database.)
A similar level of high activity is occurring on the business front among these vendors. In addition to acquiring the rights to PharmaPort, Sonoco ThermoSafe has also acquired a European packaging vendor, Laminar Medica, which will expand Sonoco’s capacity and scale in Europe. CSafe Global, which markets RKN unit-load devices for air cargo as well as AcuTemp passive containers, has acquired Kalibox, a French packaging supplier. Pelican BioThermal has recently expanded its manufacturing capacity by 14,000 sq. ft. in its Plymouth, MN facility. In recent months, both World Courier and Marken, two leaders in clinical trial logistics, have expanded their resources in Moscow; Marken has also opened a new operations center in India.
Even with all this activity and market growth, some IQPC vendors might be looking with envy at another “cold chain” company in the news: Yeti Holdings Inc., which supplies ice chests and insulated cups for outdoorsmen. The Austin, TX company (whose Tundra 250, a 6.6-cu. ft. chest made with rotomolded plastic and polyurethane insulation, retails for $900, and has been “certified” as “bear proof” by something called the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee), is about to be taken public by a private equity firm with a potential valuation of $5 billion. That price represents roughly a 36X P/E ratio, according to a Wall Street Journal article. Could be that if Yeti doesn’t move into the life-sciences logistics space, some IQPC vendors might look into the bear-proof cooler market!