As we eagerly enter 2021 and prepare this year’s cold chain industry predictions, we reflect on the events of 2020. Nowhere leading into the year did we predict a global pandemic. Yet its impact crosses all facets of business, causing companies to pivot and adapt. Some were able to harness new opportunities to serve our ever-changing way of life and others struggle to stay the course.
The pharmaceutical and cold chain industries were pushed this previous year to innovate through vaccine development, temperature-controlled packages that met the needs of new deep frozen vaccine storage and increased demand for existing products. They rose to the challenge, working in unprecedented ways to make 2021 a brighter year.
Though there is hope for more normalcy in 2021, COVID-19 will continue to drive business operations. This is certainly true for pharmaceutical and cold chain companies. Our three predictions below all show how COVID-19’s influence persists, and in some instances, may have a long-term ripple effect.
Return to Refrigerated Temperatures for COVID-19 Vaccines
As of December 8, 2020, 78 different COVID-19 vaccines are in clinical trials, under regulatory review for approval or approved for limited use. Though two vaccine candidates show strong promise, with one approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom, we expect the number of viable, approved COVID-19 vaccines will continue to grow in 2021.
All else equal, it is likely the market will favor vaccines that require refrigerated temperatures of 2-8 degrees Celsius. Existing infrastructure exists to more easily transport and store these vaccines around the world. Additionally, refrigerated temperatures eliminate concerns around shortages of dry ice and concerns about how it reduces the amount of available cargo space on aircraft.
Outsourcing the Cold Chain
Pharmaceutical supply chains continue to reach new levels of complexity that challenge even the most seasoned logistics and supply chain professionals. Contract Manufacturing Organizations (CMOs) and Contract Development and Manufacturing Organizations (CDMOs) offer expertise in manufacturing and development of therapies, allowing pharmaceutical companies to focus on their areas of expertise.
Growth in Direct-to-Patient and Direct-from-Patient Brings Cold Chain to the Last Mile
Over the past several years, clinical trials have become increasingly complex. They require extensive data collection, utilize complicated drug regimens and enroll global patient populations. Frequent travel to a clinical site for routine drug administration, sample collection and simple tests can deter patients from participating. This is especially true when patients do not live close to a medical facility.
COVID-19 also increases the chances home-based offerings will grow outside of clinical trials. Over the past year, healthcare companies and consumers learned that it is possible to receive healthcare at home. We expect that a subset of the population will continue to prefer home-based healthcare for its convenience, driving more companies to offer this service.
About the Author
Dave Williams is the President of Pelican BioThermal, a division of Pelican Products, Inc. In this role, he is responsible for the strategic growth of product and service offerings to serve Pelican BioThermal’s worldwide clients and partners.