Advanced Degrees

Recognizing Pharma Cold Chain Excellence

By Kevin O'Donnell | March 3, 2010

New awards keep it real

The International Quality and Productivity Center (IQPC) held its 9th Annual Cool Chain Europe Conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands last January. The niche-based conference developer has successfully capitalized on the groundswell of growth within pharmaceutical supply chain over the last decade, particularly in areas related to temperature control management of biopharmaceuticals, with its innate ability to assess, design, develop and integrate timely topics into its agendas and by securing a host of subject matter experts for the various tracks, panels and plenary sessions.

Three years ago, IQPC inaugurated a peer-reviewed Cool Chain Excellence Awards program at its annual Cool Chain Europe conference to bolster attendance and nurture participation in their event by highlighting key achievements made within the pharmaceutical cold chain industry, which personified industry best practices. Since its inception in 2008, the number of nominations has more than doubled year-over-year, with the 2010 Cool Chain Excellence Awards drawing nearly 20 enthusiastic nominations worldwide across three distinct categories. The categories, too, have evolved since IQPC implemented the program. Initially, there were two broad-based categories: Technology Provider of the Year and Most Significant Contribution to Cold Chain Excellence. These were awarded to Berlinger and Co., and the PDA Technical Report No. 39 Working Group, respectively.

The following year a third category was added, Most Influential Team, Person or Project, and the two other categories tweaked to Best Service Provider of the Year and Top Technology Provider of the Year, in order to be more inclusive of the conference participants and more focused on industry priorities. The 2009 winners were:

Most Influential Team, Person or Project: Envirotainer QEP Project(Qualified Envirotainer Provider (QEP) Training and Quality Program)

Best Service Provider of the Year: FedEx Custom Critical, Inc.

Top Technology Provider of the Year: Entropy Solutions

Never complacent and driven by industry focus, IQPC and the 12-member cross-industry volunteer Advisory Board met to further enhance the program for 2010. The Advisory Board, whose members also serve as adjudicators for the submitted nominations, established three revised categories: Best Temperature Control Logistics Project, Best Quality, Qualification or Risk Management Project, and Top Green or Environmentally Driven Initiative. This allowed drug manufacturers and their service providers, along with virtually all others in the supply chain, to compete within the same categories. The 2010 Cool Chain Excellence Awards also included an honorable mention designation for each category. Nominations were rated using a point system - 1-5, by multiple judges in each category - using the following criteria:
  • Performance: technical ability, ease of use, affordability, increased efficiency, cost-cutting including assessment of pilot/project results.
  • Impact: measured improvements to company, business, customers, environment and overall benefit to user.
  • Innovation: novelty, pursuit of entrepreneurship and cold chain excellence.

The following is a list of this years' winners and runners-up:

Best Temperature Control Logistics Project

Winner: The Shake Test to test damage to vaccines by freezing; Use of cool packs to prevent freezing; WHO-PDA Pharmaceutical Cold Chain Management on Wheels - Dr. mit Kartoglu, World Health Organization

Dr. Kartoglu has gone to great lengths to ensure temperature-controlled medicines safely reach remote destinations around the world, including validating the easy-to-use 'shake test' and use of cool packs to prevent freezing. A most recent initiative, the Pharmaceutical Cold Chain Management on Wheels training, was designed by Dr. Kartoglu to educate practitioners around the world.

Honorable Mention: Vaccinating remote populations - Wyeth, Peru

The coordination of an extensive vaccination campaign using thermal bags as a safe packaging method and utilizing refrigerated trucks to remote locations in the Peruvian Andes for vaccination administration to populations in underserved, geographically challenging areas.

Best Quality, Qualification or Risk Management Project

Winner: Challenging the USDOT's flight rules on lithium batteries - Henry Ames, Sensitech

Mr. Ames championed an initiative to formally change and clarify a dangerous goods ruling by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) that, left unchecked, would have seriously hindered the distribution of biopharmaceuticals, potentially affecting product quality, and ultimately risking patient safety.

Honorable Mention: IATA Perishable Cargo Regulations, Chapter 17 Revisions - IATA Time & Temperature Task Force (TTTF) Working Group

Implementation of the 9th Edition of IATA Perishable Cargo Regulations Chapter 17: "Air Transport Logistics for Time- and Temperature-Sensitive Healthcare Products."The guidelines are making inroads for significant improvement in air transport and adopting a comprehensive quality management system for shipping healthcare products across the supply chain.

Top Green or Environmentally Driven Initiative

Winner: Entropy Solutions

A passive packaging system capable of maintaining temperatures ≤-20C for a minimum of 60 hours without the use of dry ice, with a capacity for a minimum of 80 1-liter bottles. Other design requirements included that the shipper had to fit within an LD3 aircraft container. The system uses 100% bio-based, non-toxic, biodegradable, re-usable and recyclable components.

Honorable Mention: Softbox

The Silverpod: an insulated, bulk, passive packaging system. A viable alternative to an active ULD, manufactured from 100% recyclable materials. The system has been developed to maximize the use of available air cargo space on aircraft skids/pallets and the robust design allows customer to re-use the system.

The fact that categories for awards at industry conferences in the biopharmaceutical supply chain even exists is a testament to the phenomenal growth, importance and focus given to this sector of the market. At its best, these industry awards raise the proverbial bar, spur competition, increase awareness and promote best practices. On the other hand, ceremonial awards will always have their detractors - those who don't support self-congratulatory recognition, those who believe peer competition is too often biased, that it breeds favoritism, contempt and jealousy. In order to counter these arguments, the success of industry award recognition needs to remain as independent, fair and transparent as possible. To maintain such integrity IQPC welcomes all input to the Cool Chain Excellence Awards and anyone interested in getting involved, submitting a nomination, providing input to 2011 categories, or taking part in judging or advising, should contact the conference director, Courtney Becker-James, at

For all the controversy that can surround such competitions, the net gain in our industry is that the patient ultimately benefits - and regardless of what you think about industry awards, that is a very good thing.

Kevin O'Donnell is director and chief technical advisor to industry at Tegrant Corp., ThermoSafe Brands. He blogs at Where Cooler Heads Prevail.

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