DHL Global Forwarding, the air and ocean freight forwarding unit of German giant Deutsche Post DHL, said late Thursday it will add a “deep-frozen” room to its San Juan, Puerto Rico, life sciences facility to store equipment and products at temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius.
The room is designed to maintain ultra-cold temperatures required for two vaccines being developed to combat the novel coronavirus. One, produced by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and its German partner, BioNTech, must be kept at minus 60 to minus 70 degrees Celsius. The other, developed by biotechnology firm Moderna, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA) in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, must be maintained at minus 20 degrees Celsius. Both vaccines have proved more than 90% effective in clinical trials and could begin to be available before the end of the year.
A DHL spokesperson said the unit will supplement those extreme temperatures demanded by the Pfizer vaciine with dry ice so the vaccine can be safely transported, stored and distributed at the even-lower temperatures.
The DHL unit’s $650,000 improvements to the 72,000-square-foot facility, which will go live in a few weeks, include additional “cool room” capabilities to store goods at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, considered the standard temperature range for most vaccine shipments. The unit will also include a cross-docking area kept at between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius, and sufficient space to handle multiple containers simultaneously, the unit said. The expanded cool room area will provide additional capability for short- and long-term storage, according to the unit.
DHL Global Forwarding is the byproduct of the former Air Express International Corp. and Danzas, two freight forwarders that Deutsche Post DHL acquired more than two decades ago. Through the predecessor companies, DHL Global Forwarding has been involved in the island’s life sciences and health care sectors since 1958. It opened a Certified Life Science station in 2007, the first freight forwarder in Puerto Rico to do so.
As of 2015, Puerto Rico was the world’s fifth-largest pharmaceutical manufacturing center, with approximately 80 plants operating on the island. Pharmaceutical companies came to Puerto Rico in the late 1960s and 1970s to take advantage of a now-expired U.S. tax incentive known as Section 936, which allowed U.S.-based manufacturers to send all profits from local plants to stateside parent plants without having to pay federal taxes.