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Chill Out: Maintaining the pharma cool chain in hot climates

Expect to sweat – a lot – on a visit to Dubai in August. High temperatures in the Middle Eastern city average about 24C (75F), even in January, and top out at 38C (100F) or higher from May through September.

While the geography of the Middle East makes it an ideal hub for products transiting the globe by air, the hot region presents a major hurdle for cargo shipments that must stay cool or lose their value. Temperature-sensitive pharma products must be maintained at temperatures as low as -150C (-238F), and most cannot handle temperatures above the refrigeration range of 2-8C (35-46F).

Meanwhile, dramatic advances in drug development in the past few years, such as strides in genetic editing of cells for cancer treatment, have introduced the need to quickly transport specialized and costly products manufactured specially for specific patients who desperately need them. This leaves no time for slow-moving oceanfreight, or for air cargo handling failures.

How, then, has hot-as-tar Dubai developed into one of the most successful airfreight pharma hubs in the world over the past few years? In the extreme Dubai climate, operators making up the cool chain must emulate the researchers developing the lifesaving products being transported and have their every move down to a science.

This feature appears in full in the February issue of Air Cargo World.