New packaging vital to life

SCA's Cool Logistics specializes in temperature-controlled packaging, used for example at heart transplants

A heart must be transplanted within four hours. But it's not just time that is crucial: keeping the temperature constant also plays a vital role. All this places major demands on packaging.

In the biochemistry industry, demand for temperature-controlled packaging solutions is continually growing, and the pharmaceutical industry in particular has a great need for these. Packaging for the transportation of human organs in conjunction with transplants is just a small part for this industry, but certainly a very important one.

A matter of life or death

A heart must be transplanted within four hours from the donor's respirator is turned off, while kidneys can manage for up to 24 hours. But speedy shipment is not the only vital factor. Maintaining the right temperature is also a matter of life or death.

Cool Logistics in Bedforshire in eastern England is wholly owned by SCA. The company has specialised in packaging that solved the temperature problem in different kinds of transportation.

In most cases, it simply involves maintaining the temperature of a regular refrigerator, between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (36-46 Farenheit), although the requirements may vary considerably. So do the temperature conditions in the local environment. Transporting an item during the winter in Moscow is not the same as during the summer in southern Europe.

"Stability is the key word rather than the actual cooling," says Richard Perkes, commercial director at Cool Logistics, who has extensive experience with packaging solutions as the company's former technical manager.

Increasingly rigurous requirements

The temperature of transported organs must be kept stable. This is achieved using different types of cooling elements in the packaging, which are adjusted depending, among other things, on where the transportation takes place. The insulation material is often polystyrene or polyurethane.

In recent years, the trend has been toward using more advanced vacuum insulation panels, which also reduce volume considerably. Requirement standards for temperatures are becoming increasingly rigurous, as are inspections for ensuring that these requirements are met, according to Perkes.