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For up to 30 million doses monthly: DB Schenker transports filling line to build up vaccine capacities against the pandemic

Antonov charter flight from Germany to the US • 82 tons of pharmaceutical equipment to set up a vaccine production line • Vaccine production aimed to support several countries

Essen/Frankfurt/Chicago, April 13, 2021 – Special air freight charter to overcome the pandemic: On behalf of US-based healthcare company Nexus Pharmaceuticals, DB Schenker has transported equipment for a vaccine filling line this week. With a total volume of 82 tons, it was necessary to charter an Antonov An-124 aircraft for the flight from Frankfurt-Hahn in Germany to Chicago-Rockford in the US. The transported material comprised of a vaccine filling machine with isolator from the German specialized engineering companies Bausch + Stroebel and Franz Ziel. Once the production line is operational, it has the capability to produce up to 30 million doses of vaccines per month. The design and fabrication of the machine already began years before the pandemic.

Thorsten Meincke, Member of the Management Board for Air and Ocean Freight at DB Schenker: “With our expertise in intercontinental transports, we want to support the global fight against the pandemic by building up vaccine production capacities where possible. More than ever, logistics truly matters. We are proud to be able to realize short-term air freight solutions for our customers even in times of limited market capacities.”

John Cook, Vice President of Manufacturing Operations of Nexus Pharmaceuticals: “Nexus Pharmaceuticals is keenly aware of the need for an increase in global vaccine production capabilities and as such has aggressively taken steps to address the situation. The filling line and associated isolator represent critical pieces and their arrival is the culmination of Nexus’ commitment to addressing medical needs during the pandemic. Nexus’ investment with DB Schenker’s tremendous support was instrumental in the fast-tracking of the commissioning of our state-of-the-art sterile pharmaceutical manufacturing facility.”

Bausch + Stroebel is a German specialist in machines for pharmaceutical packaging. Ahead of the break-out of the pandemic, the company already started to develop and build the now transported production line for the filling of sterile pharmaceutical products into vials. Franz Ziel created a tailor-made isolator to realize a truly aseptic environment for the processing of sterile pharmaceutical products.  

From the two companies’ locations in Ilshofen and Billerbeck, DB Schenker transported the equipment to Frankfurt-Hahn Airport from where an Antonov An-124 charter flight carried 67 tons to Chicago-Rockford. The cargo was split into 20 boxes: The largest container possessed a length of 8.5 meters and 8.3 tons in chargeable weight. As even the Antonov’s capacities were not sufficient, another 15 tons were transported on DB Schenker’s regular weekly scheduled charter flight from Munich to Rockford.

After the arrival of both flights in the US, DB Schenker forwarded the entire cargo to Pleasant Prairie in Wisconsin where Nexus Pharmaceuticals will use the vaccine filling line with its surrounding isolator in a state-of-the-art sterile pharmaceutical manufacturing facility. Depending on the type of vaccine, the machine is capable to produce up to 30 million doses monthly which could help to alleviate production bottlenecks to overcome the pandemic. The vaccines filled by the machine could be distributed both in the US and internationally. Subsequently, the line will be used for filling Nexus Pharmaceutical’s extensive portfolio of specialty and generic injectable products into vials.

An Antonov An-124 has a length of almost 70 meters. With a total shipment volume of 400 cubic meters, DB Schenker’s decision to utilize the four-engined airlift was based on the size of the cargo rather than its weight. 

The following video shows some impressions from the aircraft’s loading procedure in Frankfurt-Hahn.

Jennifer Gabriel, Head of Air Freight Branch Ilsfeld at DB Schenker in Germany, supervised the special charter flight’s loading procedure on April 10: “The complexity of this project was to coordinate several stakeholders and transport solutions involved. It feels great to be part of such a well-orchestrated example of life-saving logistics.”