DFW Airport Aims to Help Put North Texas on the Global Map as a Center for Life Sciences, Says Expert » Dallas Innovates
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport has been a vital link in the supply chain during the pandemic. The ability to safely move sensitive products highlighted DFW’s industry-leading distribution capability and the airport’s goal to help put North Texas on the world map as a hub for life sciences, says Milton De la Paz.
As one of only two airports in North America with an IATA CEIV Pharma community, DFW cargo stakeholders throughout the supply chain have been trained to provide the best environment and safe handling for R&D needs of pharmaceuticals and life sciences, according to De la Paz, VP of airline relations and cargo at DFW Airport.
The dual purpose? To move biologics with quality assurance and ultimately create a life sciences manufacturing cluster, through ready-to-use logistics and supply chain companies.
A Community Approach to the Seal of Approval
The airport has taken a community-based approach to the rigorous CEIV certification process by bringing together logistics partners specializing in ground handling, trucking, cold storage, warehousing and freight transportation. DFW partners in the CEIV community – SCL Cold Chain, dnata Cargo USA, BIG Logistics and Expeditors International – have completed a testing and validation process that meets global standards for safe and efficient handling of pharmaceutical and life sciences products. airport life.
The certification, obtained in 2019, was timely. Operation Warp Speed quickly shed light on the airport’s cold chain capabilities during the pandemic.
“We raised our hands,” De la Paz told us. “We saw straight away that the requirements to distribute the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine were at a very high level. Pfizer requires 70 degrees below Celsius. No truck has that kind of refrigeration.
De La Paz, who is also a board member of BioNorthTX, an organization that promotes and connects the region’s biotech industry, has helped lead efforts to leverage geography, air traffic and communities. vibrant locals in the area.
Currently, the logistics manager is leading a project for the handling and transport of cellular gene therapies.
De la Paz is among the experts invited to share their thoughts on the CRE market for our recent DALLAS® magazine which focused on how DFW is punching above its weight in commercial real estate. Here’s what he had to say in “View from the Upper Level”.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is first in the world for connectivity, and one of its strengths is commercial service. Let’s start with an overview in terms of logistics.
This airport was ranked #1 in the world for connectivity in 2020: we have more flights connecting the airport worldwide. Think about distribution capabilities and opportunities. Commercial services – freight forwarders and our many airlines – are among our many strengths.
DFW is the largest US hub, and even during the pandemic it was sometimes operating upwards of 800 flights a day. It’s just a carrier.
When it comes to logistics, geography matters. It’s so important to be in the middle of the country. Omnidirectional distribution is essential: in any direction, you get there faster.
How does the airport help bridge the gap between the pharmaceutical industry and air transport logistics?
The pharmaceutical supply chain must ensure product integrity. It’s about getting products with unique characteristics from point A to point B with quality assurance. We’re working with manufacturers and members of the supply chain to make sure we’re all in sync. We don’t do this in a vacuum.
DFW is one of two North American airports with an IATA CEIV Pharma community. Why did you make the investment?
Research tells us that billions of pharmaceutical dollars are wasted or lost each year because product efficacy has been ruined or compromised due to temperature excursion. This is the essential quality assurance that these life sciences companies need. But from a global point of view, it is about saving lives. It’s about the health and well-being of people who need medicine, some just to get through life. Reducing waste in pharmaceuticals is really about the community and the global cause.
Four companies have made the investment with us to take the training, which is extensive. These companies are willing to ship pharmaceutical products, especially those that are extremely time and temperature sensitive, such as cancer treatment, for example. When pharma and technology companies are looking for who can handle their sensitive products – who is certified to do so – we should appear on this list. DFW has the last mile trucking companies, we have a cold chain facility, we have a global freight forwarder, all certified to handle these goods.
How did Operation Warp Speed put DFW on the radar for distribution?
We saw right away that the requirements to distribute the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine were at a very high level. Pfizer requires 70 degrees below Celsius. There is no truck that has this kind of refrigeration. So it was all about packing – dry ice and other accommodations.
We raised our hands: we started talking to the Texas Department of Emergency Management. We didn’t know how Operation Warp Speed was going to pan out, but we said, “We have the CEIV Pharma community. We have know-how. We have facilities, a cold chain, all those infrastructure processes in place. From a humanitarian point of view, we are here to help at this time.
When it comes to transporting the vaccine, a lot is not public information. But the thing is, the various agencies overseeing Operation Warp Speed were happy to know what we had.
What is the DFW advantage for a growing life science manufacturing cluster?
We want those investing in North Texas in the industry to know that the region has CEIV Pharma capability. We can connect them with logistics service providers who can ensure that the product maintains its integrity throughout the supply chain.
Distribution and shipping are essential in the life sciences industry. We support the development of standard operating procedures for quality assurance.
What is your long-term vision for this?
Our ultimate goal is to help develop a manufacturing and distribution cluster here in Dallas-Fort Worth.
There are a few other areas known for R&D in life sciences, but geography is important. When you distribute, you want to reduce your distances to have faster access to wherever you need to go. Think of the distribution radius of San Francisco or Boston: you have to go all over the country. While from DFW you can reach any point in the contiguous 48 states by plane in less than four hours. By truck, you can reach about 80-90% of the US population in two days.
We would love for the DFW region to be known and established as a pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster.
What’s next for your group?
As a member of the Pharma.aero advisory board, I was asked to lead a project for handling and transporting cellular gene therapies. These are very sensitive, in terms of time and temperature, and very expensive. We discuss with manufacturers, scientists and laboratories specializing in the sale of therapies the handling requirements in this specialized field.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
A version of this story first appeared in the print edition of DALLAS® Commercial Real Estate 2022, published by Dallas Next for TREC and the Dallas Regional Chamber. Read more in the digital edition of the magazine below, and request the next print edition here.
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