Come January, Pelican Biothermal (Plymouth, MN) will begin making deliveries of its Credo Cargo, a passive, pallet-scale shipping container previewed at last fall’s IQPC Cold Chain Forum. The unit is one of several coming onto the market in the past year to attack the portion of the market usually served by active (powered) units—and the growth of the market for both technologies are a testament to the globalization of pharma manufacturing, and to the rising importance of biologics (which usually require temperature-controlled shipping and storage) in that international trade.
In light of these trends, Kevin Lawler, VP Sales at Pelican, took a moment to speak with Pharmaceutical Commerce on these and other trends affecting the temperature-controlled logistics market. “Like the pharma industry itself, this field is seeing consolidation through mergers and acquisitions,” he says, noting the recent acquisitions by FedEx of TNT Express in Europe, and of UPS acquiring Marken. Pelican itself came about several years ago through the acquisition of Minnesota Thermal by Pelican Products; a couple years later, Pelican Biothermal (as the merged entity is known) acquired the UK’s Cool Logistics. “That brought us a substantial presence in single-use thermal packaging that complements the reusable units we offer.”
This, in turn, puts a spotlight on Pelican’s network of service centers by which it manages resuable container systems. The company has been offering a reuse service for its high-performance containers through service centers in the US and the UK (the latter opened in early 2016); now, it has (or is about to) open centers in Singapore, Tokyo, on the European continent and in Puerto Rico. The service is managed through an asset-management system branded as ProEnvision. “In the right circumstances, a reuse program can provide a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than single-use technologies, and we’re finding more customers interested in that option,” he says.
Another trend affecting Pelican’s product mix is the growth of cellular therapy—still a small part of overall biopharma shipping, but one that is expected to ramp up in coming years. Some of these therapies require frozen (-20°C) or “deep frozen” (-50°C, or colder) shipping, and usually for containers of a few liters’ payload. Pelican addresses this market with its Credo Cube product line, adding in lower-temperature phase-change materials (PCMs) to maintain the lower temperatures. Coming from the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, however, is the increased interest in packaging for controlled room-temperature (CRT) packaging, especially in Europe where the EU-originated Good Distribution Practice (GDP) standards are now widely adopted. For that market, Lawler says, Pelican’s Credo (reusable) or Chronos (single-use) product lines are being specified. Both lines feature a modular design that allows for either CRT or refrigerated temperature control with essentially the same bill of materials.
To match the global needs of both manufacturers and logistics companies, Pelican has spent a good part of the past year arranging partnerships with local providers. The list includes Enviropac in Singapore, PharmaServ in the Philippines, CMC Element in China, BioThermal Solutions in Chile, Kroytec in Mexico and NatBio in Brazil.