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How Drones Could Transform Biopharmaceutical Supply Chain Innovation

How Drones Could Transform Biopharmaceutical Supply Chain Innovation

Drones have made the news once again. This time, to aid in swift and reliable delivery of life-saving temperature-controlled medications required in emergency situations. A collaboration between Direct Relief, Merck (MSD outside the U.S. and Canada), Softbox, AT&T and Volans-i is pushing the boundaries and capabilities of UAVs- also known as drones, and confirmed a successful fourth pilot proof-of-concept mission was conducted in the Bahamas last week.

“This successful pilot demonstrates the potential of innovative UAV technology to aid in delivery of temperature-dependent medicines and vaccines to people who critically need them,” said Craig Kennedy, senior vice president, Supply Chain, at Merck. “The potential of UAV technology is just one of the many areas in which we are innovating across our business and our supply chain to maximize our ability to save and improve lives around the world.”

As the partners focus on biopharmaceutical supply chain innovation and strengthening humanitarian efforts,  concerns on how to  overcome challenges in global regulations are considered in order to solidify official application in various global markets. Previous test flights were conducted in Switzerland and Puerto Rico.

“Experience and research consistently show that those most at risk of health crisis in disasters live in communities which are likely to be cut off from essential health care due to disruption of transportation and communications,” said Andrew Schroeder, who, among other responsibilities, leads analytics programs, data visualization, and geospatial analytics for Direct Relief.

“Drone delivery is one of the most promising answers to this problem. More remains to be done to operationalize medical cargo drones in emergencies. But successful tests like this one demonstrate that remarkable new humanitarian capabilities are emerging quickly.”

Real-time data analysis and collection in conjunction with fully autonomous controlling enabled test flight success. Additionally, the cold-chain technology ensured temperatures as low as -70 degrees Celsius were maintained, all while providing accurate temperature tracking and reporting.

Photo credit: Direct Relief

“Our goal is to revolutionize the way goods and people move in the world,” said Hannan Parvizian, CEO and Co-Founder of Volans-i, in San Francisco. “Successfully demonstrating our ability to make temperature-controlled drone deliveries in various climate and terrain conditions across these pilots is a first step towards realizing our vision for a world in which no one should be deprived of access to life-saving medical supplies and vaccination due to lack of infrastructure and responsiveness of the transportation ecosystem.”

“This most recent proof-of-concept test has once again demonstrated the capabilities of the Softbox SKYPOD for the transportation of life saving medicines, this time at ultra-low temperatures,” added Richard Wood, Director, Digital Connected Technologies at Softbox. “To ensure full track and trace throughout the test flight Softbox utilized Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and data dashboard services provided by AT&T. The data collected during the successful flights has shown everybody involved the power of IoT to provide full visibility of the Cold Chain, even in the most extreme environments while using innovative transportation modes.”

“Through close collaboration with Direct Relief, Merck, Volans-I and AT&T, we have successfully proven the capabilities of this unique and ground-breaking combination of cutting-edge technologies and now will focus our efforts on completing subsequent pilot projects,” Wood concluded.

Softbox Supports Delivery of Life-Saving Medicines to Africa

Tanzanian children in need of oncology medication will soon receive a third shipment of life-saving medicine next month thanks to efforts between cold chain packaging systems provider, Softbox and International Health Partners (IHP). Softbox’s Silverpod pallet shippers have already delivered 1,400 courses of medicine and will add another 500 following next month’s delivery.

Softbox’s donation has enabled us to send these much-needed medicines to those who desperately need it,” said Colleen Harrisson-Dodds, IHP’s Logistics Director. “The pharmaceutical companies we work with recommended Softbox’s packaging, and we are very pleased with the result. This is an ongoing programme, and we hope to continue delivering this medicine to our partner hospital in Tanzania, as they have no other access to it and many more patients are in need.”

IHP first consulted with Softbox last year to determine a temperature-controlled packaging solution to safely transport the life-saving medicines at a 2-8°C range. The award-winning Silverpod pallet shippers transport the medications via airfreight directly to IHP’s Tanzanian-based aid partner, TLM.

“We are proud to be working with IHP to help achieve the safe temperature control transportation of these life-saving medicines. Knowing our packaging is helping these children to have a healthier and happier life is very rewarding, and we are very proud to be part of this fantastic initiative.”

Softbox Steps Up Leadership for Increased Innovation

Temperature-controlled packaging provider, Softbox, announces a new approach to leadership in an effort to support increased innovation within the company’s solutions portfolio.

“At Softbox, we focus on developing the best possible innovation for products and services for our clients. Clive’s 36-years’ cold chain logistics experience and extensive knowledge of our clients’ challenges and needs will ensure the appropriate products and services are introduced into the market based on what customers tell us they really need and prioritize.”

Clive Bryant was announced this week as the company’s Global Product and Marketing Director, overseeing global and regional-specific product and service solutions while ensuring products are aligned with a customer focus.

Filling the newly created role of Director of Connected Digital Technologies is Richard Wood, responsible for working with IoT innovaters and
cold chain digital technology partners to develop innovative products with a focus of “big-data” value creation for its customer base.

“Richard’s new role will focus on bringing true digital innovation to our industry. With emerging new connected digital technologies, we will create real end-to-end cold chain visibility to enable our customers to manage their quality and risk more scientifically and efficiently.”