Va-Q-tec, a super-cold tank company, expands to meet COVID-19 vaccination needs

Written by Ilona Wissenbach

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A va-Q-tec cold storage specialist is significantly expanding its fleet of 2,500 rentable containers to meet the growing demand for COVID-19 vaccines, which must be kept at -70 ° C. ), said the CEO.

The German company is in talks with all major pharmaceutical manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines, CEO Joachim Kuhn told Reuters in an interview.

Kuhn said the company will “significantly expand” its fleet of leased containers next year. He did not specify how many extra containers were planned, although he said it would not be enough to double the fleet.

Va-Q-tec is one of a handful of high-end packaging suppliers in high demand as pharmaceuticals and logistics companies prepare to deliver such shots worldwide. Its shares rose 230% this year, with the company valued at about $ 690 million.

The company’s turnover has grown by 30% per year over the past 10 years. “We expect this growth to continue in a similar form,” the CEO said, adding that the global distribution of vaccines could take several years.

“We are carefully increasing the number. If the market is growing by more than 10% a year, we are not afraid of sitting on empty containers after the crown.”

The Würzburg-based company completed a bond issue of 25 million Swiss francs ($ 27.4 million) on Monday to help fund expansion plans.

It manufactures “passive” tanks that use dry ice to keep their contents at ultra-cold temperatures for up to five to six days, as opposed to “active” tanks that also use electric motors for cooling.

A vaccine candidate using mRNA technology developed by Pfizer and BioNTech should be kept at -70 degrees Celsius, colder than the offerings of Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca PLC.

According to Kuhn, va-Q-tec had contracts with the world’s 20 largest airlines and major carriers. According to him, intercontinental transport by freight flights is not expected to be a bigger problem than the last mile of road distribution, given the experience with air transport of super-cold goods.

“Meeting the demand for dry ice is not a big problem in our latitude with proper regional production,” Kuhn said. “It is a challenge in countries that do not have this infrastructure in Africa, Latin America or Russia.”

(Report: Ilona Wissenbach, Reuters TV; Written by Jamie Freed; Edited by Pravin Char)