Based on a firm belief that income should not determine who has access to lifesaving care, Villanova has announced the establishment of NOVAMED: the Villanova Laboratory for Affordable Medical Technologies. This interdisciplinary lab is dedicated to developing open source, affordable, and globally available medical technologies for people in communities where the cost of such resources remains out of reach.
Worldwide, annual government expenditures on health ranges from over $10,000 per person in the US to less than $75 per person in countries like Bangladesh. Low levels of expenditures on health in general, leads to low levels of expenditures on medical devices, which is where NOVAMED—and platforms like NovaVent—come in.
NovaVent—a ventilator with capabilities similar to those of commercial machines at a fraction of the cost—is one of the technologies currently being developed at Villanova. With the disparity of need highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic, an expert team of engineers, doctors, nurses and human factor specialists collaborated to develop a ~$500 ventilator whose design will be available open source, enabling anyone to rapidly produce identical devices.
NOVAMED’s initiatives will go well beyond the pandemic, however, as teams design and develop more cost-effective medical technologies to benefit the global population. Examples of ongoing NOVAMED initiatives include:
- Using drones to deliver emergency medical supplies. An EMeDS pilot project is based in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, India, where limited access to first responders and medical supplies hinders access to emergency medical care.
- Repurposing the EOD robot—originally designed to remove explosive ordnance in Cambodia—to deliver medical supplies in disaster situations.
- Advancing diagnostic algorithms to increase the accuracy of medical diagnoses, which are inaccurate 60-70% of the time in well-resourced nations, and even less accurate in under-resourced communities.
- Designing reliable, customizable and inexpensive lab equipment that can be 3D-printed and controlled by inexpensive microcontrollers. A chromatography system currently being developed, for example, could be reduced in cost from $25,000–$100,000 to ~ $500.
Dr. C. Nataraj, director of the Villanova Center for Analytics of Dynamic Systems and the lead behind NOVAMED, says, “NOVAMED’s mission is humanitarian and will be achieved through international partnerships. We will design and prototype these devices at Villanova and collaborate with government, industry and NGO partners to bring these technologies to scale for widespread social impact.”
NOVAMED is seeking funding for a suitably equipped laboratory and to recruit a full-time research scientist who will oversee the laboratory’s portfolio. To learn more and help support NOVAMED, contact Keith Argue, assistant dean of External Relations.