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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Cold Light of Day

2020 was a challenging year for the entire world, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to gravely impact all aspects of people’s lives. Vaccine manufacturers are now facing their greatest challenge: not only the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines to end the pandemic, but also the storage and transport of these new vaccines. Preserving vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA), which uses the molecular instructions for building virus proteins rather than injecting parts of the weakened virus itself, is especially demanding.

Pharma vs Pandemic – The Supply Chain Struggle

Logistics and supply chain play a crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry, requiring more complex operations with precise coordination and specialised knowledge in order to adequately handle and preserve costly, lifesaving pharmaceutical products. While exposing the shortcomings of many sectors, the global pandemic has utterly transformed the logistic processes of the pharma and cold chain industry through the challenge of distributing COVID-19 vaccines to the world. The requirement for temperature-controlled environments, risk of potential contamination, and constantly changing regulations have pushed pharma logistics to innovate and develop functional solutions in a very short time frame.

Distribution Challenges of COVID-19 Vaccines for Pharma and Cold Chain Logistics

Temperature control is one of the most crucial factors for distribution of the vaccine. Both the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on mRNA technology and must be stored and transported at ultra-low temperatures down to -70°C (-94°F). Their novel technology is vulnerable to degradation at room temperature and requires doses to be frozen immediately after production for storage and logistics, and can only be thawed shortly before use (1). Providing an effective ‘cold chain management distribution’ system for COVID-19 vaccines is an immense challenge for the cold chain and pharma industries.

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Jan Hüneburg is Head of R&D at the German company MECOTEC and CEO of COOLANT GmbH, that has been part of the MECOTEC Group since summer 2020. He specialises in the development and production of energy-optimised industrial plants in the cryogenic sector down to -125°C. Over the past decades, Jan has developed new processes for cost-effective refrigeration for a large customer base in the industrial sector. Together with the MECOTEC development department, Jan is responsible for innovative pure-electric solutions for the storage and logistics of vaccines in the ultra-low temperature range. Jan is a summa cum laude graduate engineer in Energy and Environmental Technology and received a study award from Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany.
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Jan Hüneburg
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