Marken, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UPS Inc (NYSE: UPS), announced on July 15 that it had acquired three European companies headquartered in Austria, Hungary and Italy to expand its geographic footprint of delivering clinical trial shipments every month. UPS bought Marken in late 2016 to expand its strategic interests within the healthcare logistics sector. Marken is UPS' bid to create a dedicated patient-centric supply chain network that is tailor-made to cater to the pharmaceutical and life sciences segments.
Marken has acquired HETO (headquartered in Austria), Der Kurier (headquartered in Hungary) and HRTL (headquartered in Italy). With this consolidation, Marken will now have offices in Vienna, Milan, Rome and Gyor (near Budapest) and will deliver 7,000 clinical trial shipments every month. In total, Marken's network spans 51 sites across the world, which includes 10 clinical storage depots.
"The acquisition of this group of companies is an extension of Marken's growth and it satisfies our need for a physical presence in Austria, Hungary and Italy. Marken will quickly integrate these three new companies into the Marken network and provide a more robust operating presence in Europe," stated Wes Wheeler, CEO of Marken. "Our goal is always to provide best in class supply chain services and this acquisition makes us stronger. We welcome the three companies and their employees to our family."
The pharma supply chain industry is ripe for disruption, as it is often extremely complex and inefficient – understandable, considering that it involves medicines that need to be maintained at precise temperature and humidity levels through the value chain.
Apart from the logistics market incumbents, several startups and mid-tier companies are burgeoning within the space, bringing in innovative last-mile delivery methods to reach patients faster than conventional transport. For instance, autonomous long-range drone startup Zipline is sending out drones across unreachable corners of Africa with medicines that arrive in under 30 minutes of health workers placing orders over the telephone.
The now-acquired HRTL expedited the traditional logistics operations by creating a robust ground-level network of local providers, airlines and customs brokers, with every HRTL office situated close to major airports. This provided the niche courier company flexibility to hasten the transit of environment-sensitive medical shipments. The company also acquired its own licenses to operate across several countries.
For Marken, this move will make it a major player in the core clinical trials logistics market across central and eastern Europe. "Italy, Hungary and Austria are important sources of drug manufacturing, particularly drugs which are manufactured in sterile format. Sterile drug products are particularly sensitive and require specific temperature conditions during transport to ensure stability," said Marken in a statement. "Eastern and Central Europe are also important locations for recruitment of clinical trial patients and this acquisition further strengthens Marken's biologic sample services in the region."
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