Cryogenic refrigeration plays a huge role in a range of industries, from food processing, aeronautic, plastics and steel.

Another key industry, particularly over the past two years, has been the pharmaceutical sector. With freezing solutions utilised for the storage of vaccines, new innovations can help extend the scope of treatment for those suffering from the pandemic. 

Fabian Van Damme, Director at Dohmeyer – a leading global manufacturer of cryogenic refrigeration systems – revealed what the company is doing to advance technology for the pharma cold chain. 

Pre-Covid-19, the company worked to develop linear tunnel freezers, tumblers, control rate freezers and other technology. 

With a strong focus on the food industry, Dohmeyer also provides freezing and chilling for food, in addition to LifeSciences, which involves the freezing of stem cells and sperm. Other areas of focus include plastics, nuclear, recycling and metal. 

“Everything today is focused on the pharmaceutical industry,” said Van Damme. 

Revealing what the opportunities are within cryogenics, Van Damme discussed its burgeoning LifeScience and New Pharma sectors. 

“When you freeze a stem cell or a virus, you are interested in the biological activity of the defrosting.” 

“To freeze a living cell and to make it live many years later or months later, you have to have a completely different technology. It looks like freezing, it sounds like freezing but it’s different,” he explained. 

Classic Pharma vs New Pharma 

Describing classic pharma as drugs in the form of pills or injections, he revealed that global revenue in the pharmaceutical industry grew from $390bn to $1.2tn in the past 20 years alone. 

“Everyone believes that companies like Pfizer and Modern have made huge revenues on vaccines, and maybe they did, but believe me it is almost barely anything.,” 

According to Van Damme, despite Covid, vaccines amount for a minor share of pharma sales, not even 10% of the worldwide revenue of drugs. 

Originally developed for cancer therapy, mRNA technology has seen huge growth in the past two years. 

“This technology is no longer a pill or a liquid that can be kept at an ambient temperature,” said Van Damme. 

mRNA based technology requires freezers. Dohmeyer supplies large scale control rate freezers for vials of mRNA vaccines. For larger quantities, inline blast freezers are used, capable of storing hundreds of thousands of vials. 

One of the company’s biggest innovations is its ULT cryogenic storage freezer, an automated warehouse kept at -86C designed with a protective nitrogen atmosphere to for the large-scale storage of vaccines. 

Stating that he believes the future is no longer synthetic chemicals, but cell therapy, Van Damme added that Pharma has entered a new era of RNA and DNA therapeutics, which requires advanced technologies in cryogenic freezing.