Exclusive: Meet the Firm Building Critical Cold Storage for COVID-19 Vaccines

While the world continues its battle against the coronavirus pandemic, some countries have already started administering vaccines in the hopes of putting an end to the pandemic. Closer home, Pfizer, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech have applied for market authorisation of their vaccines, and they will begin administering the same once India approves the emergency use of any of the vaccine candidates.

However, the question still remains of how the vaccines will be distributed or even reach the remotest parts of the country.

B Medical Systems, a Luxembourg-based firm, is working on just that — ensuring the last-mile delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines to the remotest parts of the country along with providing storage for the vaccines.

Till date, the firm has supplied storage and transportation technology to 140 countries and is currently in the process of working with the health ministries across Indian states to deploy the same.

About the firm

Launched 40 years ago, B Medical Systems is a manufacturer and global distributor of medical refrigeration devices. The company’s mission is to create technology such as medical-grade refrigerators, freezers and transport boxes that can store vaccines for various diseases.

In an interview with the Deputy CEO Jesal Desai who completed his MBA at XLRI Jamshedpur and went to work with B Medical Systems, he says, “The company is well-known across the globe and our technology has been recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). We have developed a strong reputation as a customer-centric supplier of medical-grade refrigerators, freezers, and transport boxes that deliver the highest performance in terms of safety, efficiency, and reliability. Apart from producing equipment that meets the WHO’s standards, we sometimes produce the equipment that sets the standards.”

Jesal Doshi, the Deputy CEO of B Medical Systems

In the last 20 years, the firm has supplied cold storage equipment that has helped vaccinate more than 300 million children. In September 2020, the company donated storage for the COVID-19 vaccines to BYL Nair Charitable Hospital in partnership with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The patent-protected cold chain units have several unique features including lifelong warranty against corrosion, which is critical in a city like Mumbai with high humidity all year round.

While the company has a manufacturing unit in Luxembourg, a few weeks ago after talks between India and Luxembourg’s PM the company has decided to set up a manufacturing unit in Gujarat. In an interview with ANI, the company’s CEO Luc Provost said that this is the first time that the company has moved manufacturing out of its homeland.

Jesal says, “Though the transfer of technology and construction of the factory will take nine months to one year, we will start producing equipment in the meantime along with a Mumbai-based company called Parekh Integrated Service.”

About the technology

When it comes to vaccine storage, Jesal says that storing it at the right temperature is crucial. He says, “If vaccines are not stored at the optimum temperature they become equivalent to water — it will serve no purpose and become unsafe for administration.”

Speaking about the product, Jesal says that his company has experience in dealing with various kinds of vaccines, and adds that one of the highlights of their product is that one system can be used to store different vaccines. Apart from that the cold storage systems are of various sizes and can work on electricity, gas or kerosene for optimal adaptation to power constraints at health centers.

“Our medical storage products are a one-stop solution for all types of vaccines. It can store an Ebola vaccine at -80 degree Celcius, or even a Pfizer vaccine at -70 degree celsius and a Moderna vaccine at -20 degree celsius,” says Jesal, adding that they also have a solar solution which can retain the temperature up to one month even when there is no direct sunlight.

Though the exact dates of the vaccine delivery in India are still unclear, Jesal says that whenever the production starts, their team will start producing more storage and transportation facilities with the help of the Mumbai-based firm. For the future, the founders tell me they plan to focus only on developing their manufacturing unit at Gujarat but have no plans of expanding across India or in any other nation.

To know more about the company, you can visit their website.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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