VACCINE : A bonanza for tracking industry : Business all profits and booming for companies selling technology for monitoring shipments.

CHICAGO : More than half of vaccines go to waste globally every year because of temperature control, logistics and shipment related issues.

Logistical hurdles are a significant risk for efforts to rapidly distribute Covid-19 vaccines, but they have resulted in a booming business for companies such as California-based Cloudleaf, Germany's SAP SE and others that sell technology for monitoring shipments from factory freezer to shot in the arm.

Cloudleaf, backed by Intel Capital, the venture arm of chipmaker Intel Corp, uses sensors attached to material containers to track the location, temperature, humidity vibration and acceleration.

The sensors send data to the cloud, where an artificial intelligence algorithm can predict if action is needed to prevent a product from becoming exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range, known as excursions.

Cloudleaf Chief Executive Nahesh Veerina said orders have jumped 500% this year. To keep pace, the company had to expand its workforce and increase capital spending by as much as 80%. He expects a similar growth in capital spending in 2021.

The booming business has also increased the need for fresh capital. Cloudleaf has raised millions of dollars this year and has plans to raise ''very significant'' amounts of capital next year, too, Veerina said.

Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech's vaccine must be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures or on dry ice and can only last at standard refrigerator temperatures for up to five days.

In contrast, Moderna Inc's vaccine which received US regulatory authorization on Friday, can be kept in a regular refrigerator for up to a month.

These varying requirements have increased the risks of logistical mishaps.

A quarter of all vaccines are degraded by the time they arrive at their destination due to incorrect shipping procedures, according to the International; Air Transport Association. Losses associated with temperature excursions in the healthcare industry are estimated at about $35 billion annually.

Given the scale and magnitude of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, the losses could be significantly higher in 2021, analysts said.

At least two trays of Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered in California needed to be replaced after their storage temperatures dipped below minus 80 Celsius, US Army General Gustav Perna said on Wednesday.

Blockchain and sensor enabled cold chain monitoring tools can help reduce the losses as well as mitigate the risks of theft or counterfeiting of the vaccines.

Moderna is using SAP's digital solution to help serialise and distribute its vaccine. [Reuters]


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