Cold Chain Logistics and Asia Biopharma Boom

Published by Nick Barrowclough on

Cargo Loading

Asian biopharma boom is accelerating the growth of the cold chain logistics industry. As many countries in Asia develop economically, it also brings with it a maturation of their healthcare system. The latest medicines from the Biopharma Industry are highly temperature-sensitive. The demand for these medicines is soaring as incomes increase. That means a reliable cold-chain logistics service is crucial in order to efficiently and safely transport biopharma products across Asia. Regulations on Biopharmaceuticals and Biosimilars are being streamlined meaning they are coming to market faster than ever.

The general consensus in the medical industry is that these trends will continue. A survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 9 out of 10 respondents anticipated an increase over the next 5 years in Asia as more of the big pharma companies introduce specialized pharmaceuticals to the region.

Most of the new biopharmaceuticals will make their first appearance in the developed healthcare markets in Japan, Singapore, Australia and South Korea. Biosimilars may also prove popular in these countries due to their growing elderly population.

The expectation is that the Biosimilars market will first take off in the emerging markets of China and India. It is estimated that Biosimilars in China is set to quadruple in size from $2 Billion to $8 Billion by 2025. India should experience a similar growth from $400 million to $1.4 Billion over the same time frame.

Asia – Hotbed for manufacturing

In addition, and perhaps larger influence to cold-chain logistics is Asia’s place as the workshop of the world. Some of the developing nations will become a hotbed for the manufacturing of advanced biopharmaceuticals. Big multinational pharma companies, as well as regional companies, have already built large manufacturing facilities, with more being built every year. This will all add to the load being placed on Asias pharmaceutical cold-chain logistics.

Singapore is emerging as a major biopharmaceutical production hub. It offers a stable socio-political system a skilled and educated workforce, infrastructure, research excellence and regulatory policies. This is all attractive to the pharmaceutical industry and biotech firms. Already Amgen and AbbVie have major production facilities within Singapore. WuXi Biologics from China also chose Singapore as the location for their tenth manufacturing facility.

South Korea is also quickly on it’s way to becoming a major biopharma production hub too. It is home to Samsung Biologics who is now the worlds largest contract manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals. They recently invested in a $759 million USD plant outside of Seoul.

Samsung Biotechnics Lab

Japan are aggressively researching and making moves in the cell therapy arena, a sign that they will also push production growth of cell biopharma products.

Not to be left out, China has gained attention also for its biopharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities. They are still a relatively small player, there are many Chinese homegrown biotech firms expanding their manufacturing capabilities for the domestic market. China has potential as a contract manufacturing destination. 85% of Chinese domestic companies foresee exporting to Western markets within the next 5 years.

Clinical Trials

Countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have played an important role in the research and development of biopharmaceuticals for decades. These countries have actively participated in global; clinical trials. However, in recent years there are now biopharmaceuticals targeted specifically at the Asian population. The below chart illustrates the massive leaps forward Asian countries took between 1991 and 2002

As gene and cell-based therapies increase in popularity amongst Asia’s more developed markets there is progress towards the regulatory approvals of new therapies, such as CAR-T therapies. These, and other similar cell-based therapies, have a much shorter shelf life than other biologics. They also require much stricter temperature controls, making the reliability of the cold-chain logistics services vital for quality control of the product.

China has experienced a dramatic increase in its place as a development hub for biopharmaceuticals. Multinational biopharma companies are projected to spend $29.3 Billion in 2021 in China.

How does this affect Asia’s Cold Chain Logistics?

methods fo transportation for logistics

Due to the rapid growth in biopharmaceuticals in Asia, it is essential that those engaged in the manufacturing and distribution contract with reliable logistics partners. When selecting a cold-chain logistics partner you should ask yourself the following questions :

  1. Does the company have sufficient infrastructure to ensure reliable temperature controls and shipment integrity to any location?
  2. Does the logistics provider have a full range of freight solutions, from small parcels to containers?
  3. Are they compliant with regulatory requirements and industry good practices? For example, do they have IATA CEIV Pharma certification for handling temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products

Logistics providers must ensure compliance not only with international standards but any local rules and regulations at the country level. Standard procedures that include temperature-sensor, data logging, deviation and temperature excursion reporting and contingency plans for broken cold chain incidents need to be present.

When selecting your partner, look for logistics companies who have invested and are continuing to invest, in infrastructure technologies that are needed to support the biopharma industry. Some logistics companies even have dedicated biopharma divisions who can best serve the needs of the industry. FedEx, for example, are building new cold chain logistics centres next to airport runways in order to minimize exposure when moving from cold storage to aircraft loading. They also offer specialized packaging solutions like the MedPack VI°C, which is a high-performance thermal packaging for temperature-sensitive products.


As the Asia-Pacific region develops rapidly, so too does the healthcare demands. As biopharmaceuticals are becoming more popular and the region also emerges as a centre for biopharma manufacturing, it is vital that the regions logistics operators invest in technologies and infrastructure to support the industries cold-chain logistics demands.


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