FedEx launches deep-frozen healthcare shipping service

FedEx has launched a new service option for the shipment of temperature-sensitive healthcare products around the world. Part of the company’s Healthcare Solutions service portfolio, the Deep Frozen Shipping Solution uses liquid nitrogen as a coolant to maintain goods at temperatures below -150 degrees centigrade for periods of up to 10 days.

This means that shipping products from life sciences and pharmaceutical customers can be carried out without use of dry ice, which is classed as a hazardous substance under international shipment rules.

As well as avoiding the administrative and logistical complexities of dealing with a hazardous material, the liquid nitrogen dry vapour technology has less of an environmental impact than dry ice (otherwise known as carbon dioxide), according to FedEx.

Healthcare customers can order the specialized containers online, through a customized website. FedEx then delivers the container to its final destination, monitoring the shipment while in transit through the FedEx Priority Alert service.

Once the shipment is delivered, FedEx then picks up the container, refurbishing it for re-use.

Carl Asmus, vice president of international market development for FedEx, said the new service was a response to customer demand for more simple shipping services for temperature-sensitive products.

“This new service is not only non-hazardous, but it also reduces environmental impact through the use of a recyclable container and liquid nitrogen, which evaporates harmlessly,” he said.

FedEx is leasing the special containers for its Deep Frozen Shipping Solution from Californian company CryoPort, Inc., although the company would not provide details to Post&Parcel on the expected scale of its service or number of containers it would have available.

A spokeswoman said there would be sufficient containers to meet customer demand in a service that would be provided in at least 30 countries worldwide.

CryoPort’s Express Dry Shipper system involves use of liquid nitrogen coolant contained within a porous foam that surrounds the CryoPort Express container, releasing the nitrogen vapor to maintain the container’s low temperature.

According to CryoPort, the system means the liquid nitrogen cannot be spilled and lasts for 10 days without the need for “re-icing” as with dry ice technology, while the containers can be designated as non-hazardous dry shipper loads under the International Air Transport Association guidelines, to handle both infectious substances and non-infectious clinical samples.

Larry Stambaugh, CryoPort’s chairman and chief executive officer, said: “Frozen shipping in the life science industry is estimated to be a $400 million market and growing rapidly as clinical studies, diagnostics and drug manufacturing are increasingly being performed on an international basis.

“FedEx understands the potential of this market and, with the introduction of its Deep Frozen Shipping Solution, continues to enhance its HealthCare Solutions offering,” Stambaugh added.

CryoPort has also been working with DHL to make its CryoPort Express containers available for its customers. An agreement was signed between the two companies last summer, which should see DHL customers offered discounts on their shipping for using the CryoPort containers.

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