Innovative hybrid technology will ultimately ensure a vaccine’s effectiveness in the fight against Covid-19


Sponsored by SkyCell

There are currently 11 vaccines being developed with some leading pharmaceutical companies entering Phase III human trials for their discoveries. Although these signs are hugely encouraging, the next step is in ensuring that doses of any vaccine will reach their intended locations in a viable state without the need for retesting.

 This is because the transportation of vaccines presents a logistical challenge due to the high sensitivity of vibrations and changes in temperature that are common during transport. To deploy these treatments effectively, companies will have to be prepared to ship millions and eventually billions of treatments around the world, including to challenging environments found in emerging economies, which can be achieved with SkyCell's hybrid containers.

The scale of the challenge is huge. Every year, the pharmaceutical industry accepts that between four and 12 percent of each shipment will spoil and not be viable for patients. In 2019, this cost the industry $34.1 billion, according to an IATA report using data from the World Health Organization, the Parenteral Drug Association, and other industry analysis. Added to this, for each shipment that records a temperature excursion, all the vials need to be re-tested at the destination. This can cost up to $50,000 for a five percent temperature excursion, and take up to three weeks to receive the results.

To overcome this significant challenge, SkyCell has developed a two-pronged solution. The first provides suitable protection to prevent excursions in the first place and, second, provides real-time insights into the condition of the payload. Through careful development and testing, these two solutions have been brought together in hybrid smart containers, which have revolutionized the way that pharmaceutical companies transport treatments and any potential Covid-19 vaccine. SkyCell has been developing these hybrid containers for a number of years and are continuing to improve the way that the industry transports vaccines and other pharmaceuticals.

It is essential that the solution combines software and hardware to transport biologic vaccines in an effective manner. SkyCell has pioneered the use of IoT devices in these containers that can log a variety of different metrics that are critical to the safe transport of a treatment. Ambient and internal temperatures, location and time are all vital data points that need to be monitored to eliminate the need for retesting at the delivery location. The use of near real-time alerts also prevents shipments being misdirected or left in warehouses and allows local ground teams to intervene and prevent the payload from spoiling.

On top of the live data helping to prevent spoilage during transit, the data derived from IoT-enabled containers can also be used to model journeys and conduct risk assessments for different routes before a shipment goes ahead. This improvement allows logistics companies to mitigate potential risks and reduce the financial and time costs associated with spoiled cargo. The lowering of spoilage rates leads to more treatments reaching patients faster.

In terms of the physical side of the container design, hybrid containers have been designed to insulate with high effectiveness, limiting the impact of exterior energy sources, like the sun, while maintaining an ambient internal temperature. SkyCell has developed innovative materials and designs to improve the efficiency of the containers. The containers can store up to five times more energy than traditional methods, helping to keep the container at a steady temperature and protect the medicine under extreme conditions.

This also results in longer independent run times when compared to traditional active containers. SkyCell’s hybrid container, with all the innovation within the design, runs on an average journey for over 200 hours on a single charge. These containers can self-recharge automatically in a cooling chamber or reefer truck, which means they don’t rely on electricity or dry ice.

Additional features such as rubberized feet to minimize vibrations help to maintain optimal cargo conditions at all times. Meanwhile, SkyCell’s double-door systems keeps cargo dry and safe from humidity, which is vital when delivering to countries with high ambient temperatures and humid climates.

On top of this, the SkyCell’s hybrid container also saves large amounts of CO2, which even during a global pandemic is still hugely relevant and important. In India during lockdown, the first annual decline of CO2 emissions in four decades was recorded. Due to their lightweight design and efficiency, hybrid containers are helping to accelerate a sustainable change in the industry, with the containers reducing CO2 by as much as half.

The SkyCell containers allow pharmaceutical companies to securely deliver treatments from the manufacturing site to the patient, even in the most challenging circumstances. The technology and physical design of the product has led to an independent audited spoilage performance of less than one tenth of a percent, rather than the previously accepted four to 12 percent, and IATA is moving closer to providing new standards for this type of container.

With more and more encouraging signs coming from pharmaceutical companies around the development of a vaccine, governments and pharmaceutical companies need to turn their attention toward how they will distribute it. It is critical that as many of the treatments arrive at sites for patients in a viable state to save lives. The innovative technology that SkyCell has developed, such as the hybrid smart container, is the next step in defeating Covid-19.

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