Imperial team develops low cost emergency ventilator

A low cost, high performance emergency ventilator to help patients with coronavirus has been designed by a team at Imperial College London.

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The JamVent ventilator. Image: Imperial College London

Developed by a team of bioengineers and medics the JamVent system doesn’t rely on specialist parts, but can perform the demanding tasks necessary for treating patients with COVID-19.

The group claims that the device could help offer a solution to ventilator shortages worldwide, particularly for health services in developing countries, and has made the design freely available for download.

Testing of the prototype – which was developed through funding from Imperial’s COVID-19 response fund  – has shown that it can perform to MHRA specifications  and can carry out the critical functions of ICU ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

The team are working with UK-based manufacturers RPD and TestWorks, as well as groups in the USA, Australia and South America, to produce assembly-line prototypes in early May, and will seek approval from regulatory bodies, including the UK’s MHRA, and the USA’s FDA, for use in clinical settings.

The team is now looking for donors and healthcare providers to take the JamVent ventilator into full-scale production so it can help medics on the frontline as they battle the pandemic.

The project was started by Imperial medic Dr Jakob Mathiszig-Lee, who was treating COVID-19 patients at the Royal Brompton hospital and recognised there would be an urgent, overwhelming need for ventilators worldwide.

Dr Mathiszig-Lee said: “I followed the outbreak closely as it grew in Wuhan and then Lombardy. Many of my colleagues had friends or family working in the region and listening to their stories I knew there would be a global need for ventilators and reached out to colleagues in the Department of Bioengineering.  “Working in intensive care, treating these patients, I know first hand how difficult they can be to ventilate and it’s become increasingly clear to me that simple bag squeezers just aren’t up to what’s needed. “The progress we’ve made is outstanding and we’re meeting every standard we’ve tested against.

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Dr Joseph Sherwood says optimisation of the system is ongoing . Image: Imperial College London

Project lead Dr Joseph Sherwood, from Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, said: “We considered both the MHRA specifications and Jakob’s experience in the clinic when designing JamVent. “We aimed to produce a device that could perform all of the critical functions of ICU ventilators, using simple components outside of the medical supply chain.

“The resulting design is straightforward to manufacture with low cost components, which should allow us to ramp up production quickly.”

The JamVent design doesn’t rely on specialised parts and can be built with ‘off-the-shelf’ components from various manufacturers – therefore the parts cost less and long supply-chain bottlenecks can be avoided.

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Its primary components are two pressure transducers, four on/off solenoid valves and a two litre airtight container. The system doesn’t require gas to drive it and utilises only the air and oxygen required by the patient, which is critical due to limitations on gas supplies.

The team have tested a prototype of the ventilator and shown that it can perform to MHRA specifications. It can also carry out the critical functions of ICU ventilators for COVID-19 patients.  This includes the clinician-preferred Pressure Regulated Volume Controlled mode, the ability to maintain pressure during suction, and a mode to help wean patients off mechanical ventilation  (spontaneous breathing mode). The absence of a spontaneous mode and inability to deal with suction have been criticisms of basic ventilator designs.

The emergency ventilator design can be downloaded for free – and enquiries can be directed to the team here.