Until recently, the temperature-controlled storage and shipping of pharmaceutical products, known as the “cold chain,” was a relatively sleepy corner of the health care industry.
But the virus, and the temperature-sensitive vaccines that are poised to combat it, have brought new attention to the cold-chain delivery systems in the United States and beyond, Kate Kelly reports for The New York Times. Wall Street, which likes nothing better than a hot trade with the potential for big profits, is rushing to grab a piece of the action.
The companies getting attention from Wall Street are notable for how niche their operations are. Many use an elaborate network of freezers and specialized trucks and aircraft to move temperature-sensitive materials — such as blood, stem cells and tissue — around the world without compromising their efficacy. It’s a delicate process, because a product can go from vital to useless within minutes of being removed from cold storage.
Potential investors are constantly calling Stirling Ultracold, whose freezer equipment is powering UPS’s “freezer farms” in Louisville, Ky., and the Netherlands, where vaccines will be stored. “There’s not a day that goes by” that an inquiry doesn’t come in,” said Dusty Tenney, Stirling’s chief executive, who is running his Athens, Ohio, production lines around the clock.
Demand for Stirling’s freezer engines — the core component of their upright, under-the-counter and portable freezers — has soared, and the estimated waiting time for new orders is six to eight weeks, the company said. On Dec. 8, after multiple prospective investors studied the company’s financial metrics in a due diligence process, Stirling received a capital injection of an undisclosed amount that it planned to use to buy new equipment and expand production.
In October, Blackstone, the private equity giant, invested $275 million in Cryoport, a Nashville company that specializes in shipping sensitive medical materials at freezing temperatures. Investors have also been bullish on Ember, the beverage-heating company that has developed a refrigerated medical shipping box with built-in GPS and already counts two Jonas Brothers and the Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant as shareholders.
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