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An interdisciplinary team of engineers and medics is addressing ways to increase the UK's capacity for ventilator manufacture.

OxVent ventilator
The OxVent prototype ventilator could save thousands of lives if approved for mass production

Engineers, anaesthetists and surgeons from the University of Oxford and King's College London are working together to build and test prototypes that can be manufactured using techniques and tools available in well-equipped university and small and medium enterprise (SME) workshops.

"I spoke to my DPhil supervisor Professor Mark Thompson about the need for ventilators two weeks ago and suggested a cross department collaboration to build a rapid prototype ventilator for COVID-19. Things have been moving rapidly," said DPhil student Rob Staruch.

"Within a week we had a working prototype and we have presented the ventilator to the Cabinet Office."

The OxVent is an incredibly simple device based on an Ambu (artificial manual breathing unit) bag. A mask connects to a rubber bag that inflates and deflates as it pushes air into the patients' lungs. It resembles the devices used by paramedics to resuscitate people where the bags are pumped by hand. The OxVent device houses the Ambu or bag valve mask within a rigid perspex box which can be pressurised, compressing the Ambu and providing an inhalation. When the pressure is switched off, the Ambu re-inflates. The patient receives air, which can be mixed with oxygen, through a tube leading from the bag.

The design aims to exploit off-the-shelf components and equipment already held by the NHS and SMEs and reduce any pressures on the supply chains that may already be challenged by the coronavirus. The design strategy was simplicity: to have very few moving parts that had the potential to go wrong, and to minimise costs. The team thinks the OxVent can be produced a cost of less than £1,000 and, as well as the academic support that's been forthcoming, they have already heard from industry offering fabrication, 3D printing and other processes to support production.

Professor Farmery, Oxford's Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, says: "Ordinarily, to develop a medical device such as this would be a huge task, and would take years. We have designed a simple and robust ventilator which will serve the specific task of managing the very sickest patients during this crisis.

"By pooling available expertise from inside and outside the University, and making the design freely available to local manufacturers, we are pleased to be able to respond to this challenge so quickly."

Professor Thompson, Associate Professor in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford said: "This extraordinary situation demands an extraordinary response and we are pulling all the talents together in an exceptional team combining decades of experience translating research into the clinic, brilliant innovators, and highly skilled technicians."

Find out more on the project website: https://oxvent.org/

 

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