ApolloBVM could help COVID-19 patients who are less-critically ill while they await availability of a standard hospital ventilator.
The project was first developed by students as a senior design project in 2019 and has been brought up to medical grade by Rice engineers and one student, with assistance from doctors at the Texas Medical Center. The device costs under $300 in parts and can squeeze a common bag valve mask for hours on end.
"This is going to make a difference in hospitals that run out of ventilators," said Dr. Rohith Malya, adviser to the Rice engineering team in Texas. "Those that have relationships with a production facility that can quickly produce them should seek FDA emergency use authorisation. We're working locally to get that done.
"I want to emphasise that this is for use only when there is no ventilator available," he said in a statement. "We don't intend for this to be the primary device. We are still working towards the exact clinical use scenario as the situation demands it, nationally and globally."
Rice announced the team's completion of a new prototype on March 27, attracting immediate interest from clinicians, engineers, and manufacturers.
Over 500 people from more than 50 countries have requested information about the project through the ApolloBVM website.
In lab tests with an artificial lung, the latest prototype delivered non-stop air for 24 hours, until the device was turned off.
"We have been working long hours, but if we are able to make at least one COVID-19 patient more comfortable, it will be all worth it," said Amy Kavalewitz, executive director of Rice' Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, where prototypes are being built using the facility's 3D printers and laser cutters.
According to Rice, the next steps are testing with human patients and manufacturing. Tests with a Texas Medical Center partner are imminent, the team said.
Rice is also working with manufacturers seeking to ramp up production of a hospital-grade device to address current needs.