The company cited data from Biopharma Cold Chain Sourcebook, which predicts that cold chain trends will grow 48% between 2018 and 2024 for drugs that require at least 2-8°C storage and shipping. Additionally, cold chain services market growth is expected to accelerate over the next three years, said UPS, increasing by 24% by 2024, after posting a 10% increase from 2019 to 2020.
On top of that, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continually approving more and more cold storage drugs, noted the logistics expert.
BioPharma-Reporter spoke to Dan Gagnon, VP, marketing and strategy, Global UPS Healthcare, to hear about the company's decision to invest and expand its cold chain technologies and services.
BPR: What were the key learnings were for UPS from the pandemic in relation to its cold chain logistics?
Dan Gagnon: From the onset of the pandemic, we knew the crisis would shift and reshape the way the healthcare industry operates, especially in relation to the cold chain supply network. We immediately went to work, evaluating our existing cold chain capabilities and looking to determine how we could play a key role in delivering COVID-19 vaccines as safely and efficiently as possible.
A few key lessons learned include:
- The pandemic accelerated our ongoing development of proprietary cold chain technologies and services. With new developments and technologies, we’ve accomplished more within the last year than we thought possible.
- The temperature-controlled supply chain is our direct path forward for us to deliver critical healthcare products, at the right temperature, at the right time.
- When it comes to the delivery of temperature-controlled packages, there is always a need for real-time monitoring, ensuring we can quickly and safely manage issues that could disrupt the on-time delivery of the goods, like bad weather. This is why we leverage UPS Premier technology, a small sensor that allows for precise visibility, down to 10 feet, anywhere in our network.
We also learned we needed to enhance our overall infrastructure to support the future of temperature-controlled biologics. The market for drugs and therapies that require cold storage is growing at a rapid rate and the pandemic accelerated the need for more cold chain infrastructure.
We quickly added additional freezer farms, expanded ground fleets, placed cold chain experts in key locations and retrofitted existing facilities to ensure we could keep up with the demand, both during the pandemic and moving forward.
BPR: Has this investment been about plugging gaps in the company’s cold chain services?
DG: UPS Healthcare has continuously invested in enhancing our cold chain capabilities; however, the pandemic accelerated those plans and further emphasized the need to support the healthcare requirements of people around the world. For example, as the Pfizer vaccine required storage at -80°C, we knew we had to further bolster our existing offerings to include the ability to store drugs and therapies at ultra-cold temperatures.
BPR: What difference will these new investments make to healthcare providers, advances therapy manufacturers?
DG: The biggest difference our cold chain solutions investments offer to providers and manufacturers is peace of mind that their critical healthcare packages will arrive at their final destination safely and efficiently. The biggest proof point to support this is our near-perfect on-time delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
More specifically, the expansion and construction of new cold chain focused facilities in Italy, Australia, Singapore, the US and beyond, as well as customizable shipping options, helps ensure tightly managed storage and distribution, transportation, visibility, and quality assurance for these critical products, while also helping to keep costs down for shippers.
Additionally, leveraging [our precise monitoring] technology provides shippers with precise visibility into every single package.
We are also focused on enhancing and sourcing opportunities to offer customers a full end-to-end portfolio. This full offering includes both the safe and efficient delivery of products, as well as the management of reverse logistics to responsibly dispose of medical waste through a partnership with Stericycle. This helps customers avoid the headaches of managing multiple providers and a patchwork healthcare supply chain.
BPR: What are the current challenges in global cold chain logistics right now?
DG: The future of medicine is increasingly driven by biologics, which require sophisticated cold chain logistics services. As the industry continually faces new challenges including new regulations and policies, pressures to meet cost efficiencies and solving a great need to manage pharmaceutical temperature changes, it is vital for organizations to know how to reduce cold chain risk and have the right action plan in place.
Additionally, getting temperature-controlled drugs and therapies to people in remote and rural areas around the world will continue to be a focus for UPS Healthcare and its cold chain capabilities. We’ve worked hard to set up ultra-cold storage freezers in these locations and leveraged every piece of technology at our disposal, like drones, to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to distant communities.