News | METRANS Co-Sponsors the First International Pharma Logistics Masterclass

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The METRANS Transportation Consortium joined the University of Antwerp, and Pharma.Aero in organizing the first-of-its-kind international Pharma Logistics Masterclass, a course focused on critical challenges and developments in pharma supply chains and logistics, from September 7th through September 11th. Given this year’s deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, which shed a spotlight on the need to deliver pharmaceutical products safely, the co-sponsoring organizations convened researchers and pharmaceutical and supply chain industry professionals to focus on critical challenges and developments within pharmaceutical supply chains and logistics. The course created a forum for subject matter experts to present on vaccine production, storage and handling, and last-mile pharmaceutical distribution. Each day focused on a different theme, including: Air Transport & Pharmaceuticals, Pharmaceuticals & Vaccines, Cost Chain Model & Maritime Transport of Pharmaceuticals, and Pharmaceutical Last-Mile Distribution Challenges.

The co-sponsoring organizations each brought unique knowledge to the production of the course with an overarching goal of unifying academic theory and concrete, operational decision making. The University of Antwerp is a major Belgian university with a Department of Transport and Regional Economics that has significant experience in contributing to research, events, and conferences in transport economics. Pharma.Aero is a Brussels-based trade association for pharma shippers, logistics companies, and air cargo stakeholders, and they kicked off the Masterclass by discussing the importance of air cargo. This trade association provided industry experience and insights and commented on the need for end-to-end visibility—the level of transparency across an entire supply chain. Frank Van Gelder, Secretary General of Pharma. Aero stated that “from the industry’s perspectives, the participants learned what and how scientific methods could be applied to optimize logistics processes for the pharma and life sciences sector.”

METRANS Deputy Director Tom O’Brien hosted a session on Thursday, September 9th centered on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout process in Long Beach, California. O’Brien was joined by public health experts Gabriela M. Hurtado, COVID-19 Vaccine Program Manager for the City of Long Beach; Alan Hendrickson, Population Health Specialist at the California Department of Public Health; and Matthew Bagsic Franco, Local Distribution Site Supervisor at the Department of Health & Human Services in Long Beach.

The Long Beach health experts discussed the vaccine rollout in Long Beach and the structure of the Long Beach Health Department. A panel discussion moderated by O’Brien followed. The approach taken by Long Beach in pharmaceutical distribution was of great interest to European partners facing similar challenges. It served as a tangible segue to the broader discussion of pharma logistics. The participation of local health officials and partners also added unique insight to the session. The presentation covered factors that contributed to successful vaccine coordination in Long Beach, ranging from infrastructure to local governance and coordination between the City of Long Beach and the state of California. Similarly, the moderated discussion that followed addressed questions about what contributes to successful pharma logistics in general, contemplating factors such as the size of city or population, location, policy and governance, and whether the model of one city is replicable in a different city.

The discussion about the vaccine distribution in the City of Long Beach contributed to the overarching conversation about optimizing logistics processes for the pharma and life sciences sector and displayed the advantage of bringing in experts with differing experiences and perspectives. Notably, the Pharma Logistics Masterclass was able to unite renowned speakers from the academic community and the pharma sector from several different parts of the world due to its hybrid format. Participants and speakers in the week-long course had the option to attend sessions on campus at the University of Antwerp in Belgium or to join the livestream via Zoom. The innovative forum, with its diverse set of speakers, was able to take advantage of both remote and in-person environments to create in-depth discussions about the similar and different circumstances that cities face when it comes to transporting healthcare products globally and to the last mile.