Abu Dhabi: Researchers at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi have developed an affordable, simple, and easy to manufacture emergency ventilator that can be rolled out in five days, according to a statement from the university on Monday.
Responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic with these emergency ventilators in five days would serve as a stop-gap measure, giving doctors precious time until an advanced ventilator becomes available.
Researchers at Khalifa University’s Healthcare Engineering Innovation Centre (HEIC) are developing the ventilators.
They have developed a working prototype and are now engineering the production plant to be able to produce ventilators at a scale to meet rising local demand.
The team, led by Dr. Cesare Stefanini, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Director of HEIC, is working in response to the global need for increased ventilator manufacturing capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though COVID-19 often begins in the upper respiratory tract with a cough or sore throat it can enter the lower respiratory tract where it damages the lung’s alveoli, flooding them with inflammatory cells and fluid.
This makes it harder for oxygen to travel from the lungs to the bloodstream, reducing the oxygen available to the organs that depend on it.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome is the term for the rapid and extensive lung damage that occurs from a severe case of pneumonia. If a patient’s lungs are so compromised that they can’t get enough oxygen, a ventilator is used to provide more oxygen to the body.
“One of the consequences for the healthcare system is the potential shortage of ventilators,” said Dr. Stefanini.
“The number of intensive care beds and mechanical ventilators in hospitals is a fraction of what may be needed in the coming weeks as the situation develops worldwide.”
Dr Stefanini said, “We aim to develop a working prototype in less than two weeks, alongside designing a mass production unit. We have all the theoretical and design expertise in our team especially in the prototyping phase.”
The KU’s interdisciplinary team of engineers and experts are now working to establish the requirements for a production facility in Abu Dhabi. While this theoretical worst case scenario is unlikely to happen thanks to the timely measures undertaken by the UAE government, the establishment of a domestic production ability for emergency ventilators is a reasonable and well-motivated safety measure.
“Procuring new ventilators at the required scale represents quite the challenge,” explained Dr. Stefanini. “This is due not only to the required expenditure, but also due to massive demand on a global scale in a pandemic situation.”
“The cost and the complexity of the pneumatic system are lower, and considering that there is ample availability in hospitals of compressed air, the pneumatic approach seems the most promising,” explained Dr. Stefanini. “This is what the OxVent system uses.”
Innovative designs and technologies are undergoing intense research to quickly produce ventilator parts, as well as masks and other essential equipment.
The KU team is focusing on low-cost, rapid production using 3D printing and easily accessed materials. Within the next two weeks, the team aims to have the plan for the production plant finalised and the first units ready to go to support the UAE’s fight against Covid-19.
“Khalifa University is leading this project but it’s a collaborative effort from health services,” explained Dr. Stefanini. “We’re coordinating an effort with many governmental bodies and the country is pulling together to optimize efforts and save lives. We’re all reacting very quickly and tackling this crisis as one UAE team.”