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Packaging: The First Line of Defence in Life Science Logistics

Temperature-controlled packaging plays a vital role in life science logistics. Packaging has a multi-faceted role in supporting cold chain logistics to ensure transit times are met and the shipment is protected during handling. Unique packaging solutions have been developed to transport anything from sensitive biological materials during a clinical trial to life-saving medicines and cell and gene therapy treatments.

The appropriate packaging solution will ensure internal temperatures are maintained throughout global supply chains and that consignments remain viable to their final destination.

As more advanced treatments such as cell and gene therapy have become more complex and prevalent, there is an increased need for comprehensive packaging solutions that can maintain the integrity of a shipment in a wide range of conditions and, most importantly, alert supply chain specialists to any breach in the cold chain.

It is the first line of defence against temperature breaches and damage sustained during handling or tampering.

Industry Challenges

The global rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated the need for robust cold chain logistics solutions in the face of a pandemic, with successful delivery and treatment reliant on packaging and transportation for a vast range of terrains and temperatures.

Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) underlines the global challenges the industry needs to overcome. WHO reports approximately 50% of vaccines globally are wasted, including the COVID-19 vaccine, and a proportion of those are damaged during transit and storage due to cold chain malfunction.

A greater risk of future pandemics, the climate crisis and an increasing reliance on personalised treatments, such as cell and gene therapies, are accelerating the need for innovative, sophisticated and validated packaging solutions that can help to mitigate these issues.

Packaging may be the first line of defence against temperature excursions, but how can specialists ensure thermal performance is maintained throughout the consignment’s journey?

As global temperatures rise, and supply chains become more complex, cold chain packaging will inevitably have to work harder.

The nine years from 2013 through 2021 rank among the 10 warmest years on record, according to data from the National Centres for Environmental Information. Identifying where cold chain malfunction occurs is the key to reducing the industry’s biggest issues, including the occurrence of temperature excursions.

Cold Chain Packaging

Packaging for cold chain life science shipments is evolving to meet the growing demand for specialist treatments. Vacuum-insulated packaging and phase change materials are just some of the complex packaging components that are being used to maximise the thermal performance of cold chain packaging during transit.

Packaging is carefully selected based on each consignment’s unique requirements, with the temperature profile, transit time and shipping lane data all analysed and evaluated to identify the right packaging requirement. Every packaging option must also be GDP compliant and ISTA7D tested – the temperature test for transport packaging managed by the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA).