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Fundraiser set up by Irish researchers developing emergency ventilators for Covid-19 patients

The group is hoping to have a fully functional prototype by next Friday.

Image: Shutterstock/Volkova Vera

A GROUP OF IRISH researchers are raising funds to develop easy-to-assemble and inexpensive-to-build emergency ventilators for Covid-19 patients in a bid to tackle the global shortage.  

The group, which is collaborating with experts in research institutions in Ireland and the UK, is hoping to have a fully functional prototype by next Friday.

“Really, we just want to get something out there as soon as possible, so that we can save lives,” group spokesperson Aaron Hannon said as concerns are being raised globally that hospitals will struggle to cope with a large influx of Covid-19 patients. 

Hannon, who works in the school of medicine in NUI Galway and is from Co Mayo, set up the GoFundMe page on behalf of the Covid Response Team (CRT) – so far raising over €15,000. 

The team of engineers, doctors, and students are looking to raise €50,000 to develop and manufacture their Emergency Covid Ventilator. It is estimated that around 6% of Covid-19 cases will become critically ill and ventilators are vital in saving people experiencing lung failure. 

As things stand, over 200,000 cases of Covid-19 have been reported around the world. 

So far in Ireland, across all 557 cases, 31% of those diagnosed with the virus have been hospitalised while 7 cases (2% of overall number) have been admitted to an intensive care unit.

The HSE has already secured 300 additional ventilators, with more than 100 each week to be added to this number.

‘Built by anyone’ 

In Italy intensive care units have been overwhelmed, forcing healthcare workers to make the difficult decision in relation to which patients get access to ventilators. It overtook China yesterday as the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths, registering 3,405 dead.

The CRT said it does not want to see the Italian situation replicated around the world so it designed a straightforward nonprofit ventilator for health staff to operate.

It also requires little or no supply chain such that it can be rapidly introduced to hospitals worldwide by local healthcare services, according to the group. 

“We’re working on a number of different iterations as there are different kinds of ventilation required,” Hannon explained.

“Sometimes you need full control ventilation which is where the machine does all of your breathing for you. Other times, it needs what’s called supportive ventilation, which is where your body starts to breathe and then the ventilator kind of does the heavy lifting.”

The CRT is trying to provide devices for both of those scenarios as patients might need both options depending on their severity.

Hannon said all the money they raise will go towards prototype development and technical evaluation so that clinicians know that they can use these devices without unwarranted risk. 

“The second half of what we use the money for, in excess of the research and development costs, is to actually manufacture devices and to start to ship them,” said Hannon.

Taking into account that there’s going to be supply chain issues all around the world, we want to make the most basic equipment, a cleverly engineered, cleverly designed device that’s quite easy to build and can be installed as an emergency backup to the existing equipment in hospitals.

“So this equipment will still be used by trained staff, still be used in a hospital setting. The idea is that when the first line of ventilators run out that these open-source ventilators can be easily assembled at a low cost, so no patient has to go without ventilation equipment.”

Hannon said the group wants to start publishing its designs as well as providing training to international groups, so that these can be “built by literally anyone, anywhere in the world”.

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Adam Daly

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