The biggest vaccination campaign in history is creating new pressures in logistics, and an Indianapolis-based company is responding by building a distribution facility designed specifically for the shifting demands of the life sciences industry. Langham Logistics says the new distribution center—the company’s first one north of Indianapolis—will also support a recent explosion of life sciences business in the area; Fishers, for example, has attracted $500 million in life sciences investments in the last year. Langham says, with about one-third of the space dedicated to refrigerated, frozen or ultra-low temperature (ULT) storage, the distribution center will add a layer of cold capability to the Crossroads of America.
“Is [the new facility] because of Covid? We’d be doing it anyway, but I think like so many things, Covid has increased the velocity of decision-making around this sort of thing,” says Langham Logistics Chief Executive Officer Cathy Langham.
Unlike the company’s Plainfield facility, all 187,000 square feet of the distribution center in Whitestown will be temperature controlled. About 32% of the space will be validated cold storage (refrigerated and frozen), and the remainder will be Controlled Room Temperature (CRT) and “ample” ULT storage. Langham says the facility, set to open in the spring, has been designed from the ground up to serve its pharmaceutical, vaccine and biologics manufacturing and distribution clients. The company built a similar facility in Phoenix, Arizona one year ago.
“We have been in the temperature control space for many years—about 15 years on the transportation side, moving products from anywhere to anywhere in the world via temp-controlled containers, mainly for pharma and the raw materials that go with that,” says Langham. “We’ve had a lot of success with [the Phoenix facility], and phase two of this strategy was to build a like facility in Whitestown, so we’re executing on that strategy.”
Th third-party logistics, warehousing and distribution service provider has been a key player in the vaccine rollout in the Hoosier state; Langham’s Plainfield facility is storing and distributing all of the Covid vaccines for the Indiana State Department of Health. The vaccination effort has shined a spotlight on cold chain storage and distribution; the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines require standard laboratory-grade freezers, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine demands ULT.
The vaccines rely on mRNA, a biological innovation that the company says is “disrupting the last 200 years of vaccinology.” The delicate genetic material requires cold temperatures to prevent it from degrading. But mRNA has potential far beyond COVID-19; industry experts say even greater market potential could be realized using mRNA to treat cystic fibrosis, heart disease, tuberculosis and HIV.
However, Langham Logistics says cold storage is already in short supply in the U.S. with vacancy at just 10%, which “does not leave much room for a surge of mRNA pharmaceuticals.”
“[The new Whitestown facility] creates a lot of opportunity for us to provide additional capacity for our clients who need to leverage storage and distribution in different parts of the country. A lot of pharma and life sciences clients are looking for distribution out of the Midwest,” says Langham Life Science Services Director Jeff James. “It will be a fully GMP (good manufacturing practice) facility dedicated to life sciences clients, and it’s going to be very valuable to especially the newer life sciences companies that are developing north of Indy now.”
The Whitestown facility, which will be able to send product anywhere in the U.S. in less than 24 hours, will also support research, especially cell and gene therapy pipelines. Cells, tissues and other biological samples typically require ULT storage, and the Whitestown location will expand the company’s ULT space.
“Indiana is the Crossroads of America. There’s a big opportunity in the life sciences space for Indiana to continue to grow and evolve as a very relevant location for API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient), which is pharma raw material, as well as finished product. We want to be part of that,” says Langham. “And, we have 30 years of experience in transportation too, so we can be a one stop shop for our customers.”
Langham describes ULT storage and other client needs that led the company to build the Whitestown facility.
James says Covid highlighted the importance of having multiple geographic options for distribution and storage of product.