NASA to license ventilator technology free of charge | Daily News


NASA to license ventilator technology free of charge

One of the pieces of medical equipment that is currently in high-demand due to the coronavirus outbreak are ventilators. The good news is that thanks to the folks at NASA, they are licensing out their ventilator design for free so that companies can start producing them without having to waste extra time or resources researching the design.

For those unfamiliar, engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab actually got together to help create this design which was actually completed in an impressive 37 days. Dubbed VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), this ventilator design has since been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which means that companies can start making it and giving it to hospitals already.

According to Fred Farina, chief innovation and corporate partnerships officer at Caltech, “Now that we have a design, we’re working to pass the baton to the medical community, and ultimately patients, as quickly as possible. To that end, we are offering the designs for licensing on a royalty-free basis during the time of the pandemic.”

The VITAL was successfully tested on a “high fidelity human patient simulator” at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and according to NASA, one of the benefits of their design is that it uses fewer parts compared to traditional ventilators, and can also be modified for use in field hospitals.

It is not designed to replace current ventilators as it is said to last about 3-4 months, but in a pinch and in times as crucial as this, it will no doubt come in handy.

In critical cases, the coronavirus damages healthy tissue in the lungs, making it hard for them to deliver oxygen to the blood. Ventilators feed oxygen into the lungs of patients through a tube inserted down the throat.

Among those involved in the project, mechatronics engineer Michelle Easter said scientists approached the project in the same way they would build a spacecraft, with an eye towards reliability yet simplicity.

NASA says as a result, it is cheaper to build, composed of fewer parts and can be modified for use in field hospitals.

The California Institute of Technology, which manages the JPL, is offering a royalty-free license to manufacturers worldwide and is also contacting the commercial medical industry to find manufacturers for the device.

Easter says they've received interest from potential production partners around the world, not just in the U.S.

The Emergency Use Authorization allows for use of the device specifically for COVID-19 patients, with the aim of addressing the acute demand for ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic. Like all ventilators, VITAL requires patients to be sedated and have an oxygen tube inserted into their airway to breathe.

“Fighting the virus and treating patients during this unprecedented global pandemic requires innovative approaches and action. It also takes an all hands-on deck approach, as demonstrated by the NASA engineers who used their expertise in spacecraft to design a ventilator tailored for very ill coronavirus patients. This example shows what we can do when everyone works together to fight COVID-19,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. “We believe today’s action will increase availability of these life-saving medical devices. The FDA will continue to add products to this emergency use authorization, as appropriate, during this pandemic to facilitate an increase in ventilator inventory.”

VITAL poses several benefits in the national response to COVID-19. It can be built faster and maintained more easily than a traditional ventilator, and is composed of far fewer parts, many of which are currently available to potential manufacturers through existing supply chains. Its flexible design means it also can be modified for use in field hospitals being set up in convention centers, hotels and other high-capacity facilities across the country and around the globe. Intended to last three or four months, the new device wouldn't replace current hospital ventilators, which can last years and are built to address a broader range of medical issues.

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