Cryogenic containers which use liquid nitrogen are set to play an important role in the storage and distribution of coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines.

Source: Cryoport

At the Cryogene facility in Houston, Texas, a technician removes cryogenic vials from an MVE Biological Solutions storage tank

Manufacturers of the products, which will keep vaccines at ultra-cold temperatures, claim cryogenic containers hold an advantage over storing vaccines with dry ice due to the longevity they offer.

Cryoport, a provider of cold chain logistics solutions with headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee, recently acquired MVE Biological Solutions (MVE) from Chart Industries and CRYOPDP to increase its capabilities to ship materials at low temperatures.

Tom Heinzen, Vice-President of Corporate Development, Cryoport, Inc., told gasworld: “The advantage of shipping at cryogenic temperatures is that our Cryoport Express Shippers stay at a cryogenic temperature (-196 Celsius) for over 10 days, with some units holding temperature for as many as 30 days, while a dry ice shipment (-80 Celsius) will hold for three to five days on average. The short hold time could become very problematic if you are sending the vaccines to more rural or remote areas that do not have the infrastructure to store a shipment once it is received. Our Cryoport Express Shippers can not only provide the means for distribution, but also serve as a temporary storage device.”

Cryoport’s entire line of cryogenic shippers is powered by the vapour of liquid nitrogen. The process starts by pouring liquid nitrogen into the core of Cryoport’s shipper. The inside core absorbs a portion of the liquid nitrogen that has been poured in and the liquid nitrogen vapour then circulates to keep the Cryoport Express shipper at -196 for over 10 days.

Heinzen added, “With our recent acquisition of CRYOPDP, we now have a total of 27 logistics centres in 12 countries and we can more effectively leverage our network to support global distribution. Both Cryoport Systems and CRYOPDP can play a role in distribution, CRYOGENE can play a role in storing material in Texas, and MVE’s equipment can be used as well.”

Cryoport is already distributing a trial Covid-19 vaccine. Jerrell Shelton, Chairman and CEO of Cryoport, said in the company’s third quarter results, “In the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, we are highly confident that we will be a part of the global solution as we are now supporting 26 separate clinical trials, including a leading vaccine candidate, across our business units: Cryoport Systems – 15 trials; CRYOPDP – five trials; CRYOGENE – six trials.”

MVE has received several orders from government tenders and through Cryoport’s distribution network for storage systems that are destined for use in storing pandemic related materials.

IC Biomedical, which was created last month when private equity firm Milton Street Capital announced the simultaneous acquisition of the Life Sciences business of Worthington Industries and International Cryogenics, Inc., has several products which are appropriate for the storage and distribution of vaccines requiring low temperature environments.

Ian Pope, Chief Commercial Officer at IC Biomedical, told gasworld, “In terms of volume and capacity we are the second largest manufacturer of cryogenic containers. We have specific projects associated with vaccine distribution with a number of external organisations.”

Pope says IC Biomedical will be ready for an increased demand for its products in 2021.

“Luckily enough, the majority of the components you need to make a cryogenic shipper are common with a number of other products in our manufacturing range,” Pope said.

“A cryogenic shipper that would ship 500 vials is about the same size a liquid refrigerator that would store 1000 or 1500 vials. We have raw material that can be turned into a number of different products depending on demand. We have significantly increased our raw material orders and stocks in the last few months because of anticipated additional demand.”

Pope also says longevity is a key advantage for cryogenic containers versus dry ice.

“The advantages of our products over dry ice is the longevity,” Pope said.

“A dry ice shipment typically has to be complete in five days, a cryogenic shipment depending on what container you use can be three months or more.”

Reflect Scientific, which develops technologies in cryogenic cooling with headquarters in Orem, Utah, also has a product it expects to be deployed in the distribution of vaccines.

Kim Boyce, CEO, President at Reflect Scientific, Inc., told gasworld, “The Cryometrix S 90 shipper provides bio-pharma companies with an alternate to using dry ice for managing temperature sensitive product shipments. Liquid nitrogen is passed through an indirect heat exchanger in a closed system that prevents any contact of the payload with a cooling medium. The only effluent, after phase change, is a nitrogen gas exhaust. The system utilizes the thermal capacity of liquid nitrogen and provides the user with a capability of short or long duration bulk shipping in combination with a long-term storage capability, if required, once at point of use.”

The skid mounted dewar holds over 200 gallons of liquid nitrogen which is sufficient to keep a payload at minus 80 degrees centigrade for up to 10 days. At this point the dewar can be recharged or connected to a bulk tank to provide extended time at temperature if longer term storage is required.

“It is an ideal solution for freezing, shipping and storing temperature sensitive biological materials like Covid- 19 vaccines,” Boyce added.

The full article will appear in the December issue of gasworld US, along with a report on dry ice’s role with the coronavirus vaccine.