Multi-million pharma investment planned by DHL

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Deutsche Post DHL Group plans on further developing its pharmaceutical capabilities at airports around the globe through its DHL Thermonet stations to meet the rising demand for pharma specialist facilities.

The integrator discussed its infrastructure construction strategy at a media briefing held during its Life Sciences and Healthcare Conference in Hamburg (Germany) on Tuesday 16 June at the Grand Elysee Hotel.

DHL now has 90 Thermonet stations at airports around the world, which are located where it has a vast network of connections. The integrator says it has a further 15 Thermonet stations under consideration in all regions of the globe, including in China, South Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and in Europe.

These stations all have the same standards and facilities for handling pharma cargo at different temperatures and are segregated areas within airfreight terminals it has.

Speaking at the event, DHL chief executive officer (CEO), Frank Appel, says that more specialist pharma airport infrastructure is needed to meet the new demands.

He explains that there are different challenges as the pharma industry is changing and moving from chemical based drugs into biotech-engineered drugs, which need temperature controlled end-to-end facilities.

Appel explains that the changing marketplace has lead to a higher demand for more specialist high standard temperature controlled facilities in regions around the globe.

“Temperature controlled products from end-to-end is happening very rapidly. There are big challenges. And the standards must be consistent around the world,” Appel says.

DHL published a report at the conference in Hamburg, entitled The Smarter Cold Chain: Four essentials every company should adopt. The report says that a new generation of cold chains needs to be developed to improve global health standards.

The integrator’s white paper by its global forward arm found there are critical challenges as the global demand for expensive structurally complex and temperature sensitive biological and speciality drugs grows.

Appel says that in order to meet the changing market demands revealed in the report: “This year we are investing 500 million euros [$563 million] between Leipzig-Halle Airport, East Midlands Airport, Brussels Airport, Cinninatti Airport and at Changi Airport for network upkeep and optimisation.”

Appel explains that DHL is constantly looking to expand its capabilities at airports, but says there are no plans to have hubs, which only handle pharma cargo.

He says if DHL has pharma only hubs, it would not tap into the integrator’s large scale volumes and network. The best strategy, Appel says, is to develop pharma capabilities within existing hubs where it already has a large scale network and operation.

He adds that DHL will spend a, “three digit million euro amount,” in the coming years as part of a fleet renewal programme in Europe, but could not give exact details of which aircraft will be introduced or phased out.