Domestic natural gas and helium producer Renergen and local express courier partner DPD Laser have inked an agreement for Renergen to manufacture the first 110 Cryo-Vacc units for supply to DPD.
The Cryo-Vacc is suitable for both air and ground transportation. Liquid nitrogen is used to keep the unit cold when transporting vaccines by road, while helium is used to keep the unit cold when transporting vaccines by air, Renergen reported at the launch of the Cryo-Vacc in February.
Aside from helium being only a “fraction of the weight” of nitrogen, thereby significantly reducing its cost in airfreight, when used in Cryo-Vacc, helium can accommodate up to 12 times more vials per flight than other cryogens based on current flight safety regulations.
DPD has agreed to a fixed purchase of 110 Cryo-Vacc units in a combination of all three sizes on offer. The units will be delivered by the end of May.
While the agreement with DPD Laser is not considered material to Renergen from a revenue perspective, it represents a significant milestone for the company regarding the start of manufacturing of the Cryo-Vacc to its customers.
The agreement has been completed ahead of the launch of a Phase 2 vaccination programme in South Africa.
DPD will offer the Cryo-Vacc units to the market on a monthly rental arrangement, including the maintenance, delivery and collection of the Cryo-Vacc units from respective maintenance points.
The three sizes offered currently include a large case (which can store up to 2 400 vials), a medium case (which can store up to 1 200 vials) and a smaller case (which can hold up to 240 vials), which is suitable for smaller vaccination points such as pharmacies and medical practices.
"The prototype was put through its paces in a first validation phase and was purely focused on temperature distribution and stability. Notably, the Cryo-Vacc passed successfully. We saw areas where we could improve the design during this process and resubmitted it for another round of validation,” says Renergen CEO Stefano Marani.
"We believe the technology works and, as time progresses, we will continue to enhance and improve the Cryo-Vacc as we gain valuable data from people in the field using the product.
“The analogy we see here is that version 12 of a smartphone was not the first version released; they got there over time. Cryo-Vacc will continue to evolve, and this is the exciting part as it becomes more flexible and useful in the field, which is the goal," he adds.
DPD CEO Anton Visagie says the Cryo-Vacc is the “ideal solution [for] storage and distribution, given the current uncertainty on which vaccines will be used at various vaccination points across South Africa”.
“[The] technology can handle all three required temperatures of [between] 2 °C and 8 °C, -20 °C and -70 °C without being dependent on an external power supply for periods between 7 and 35 days."