Ventilators are essential in keeping severely ill coronavirus patients alive, but hospitals nationwide are facing a critical shortage of the life-saving medical device amid the rapidly spreading nature of the virus and the amount of time an infected patient requires the machine. The Society of Critical Care Medicine has projected that 960,000 coronavirus patients in the US may need to be put on ventilators during the outbreak, but the organization estimates that there are only about 200,000 of the devices.
Villanova University College of Engineering Professor C. Nataraj, PhD, has assembled a team of fellow engineering faculty, industry professionals and graduate students from the College of Engineering and the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing to work with medical experts from Geisinger Health System and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to design, develop, test and validate a low-cost (< $800) ventilator to address the region’s needs. The goal is to design a device that is safe, robust, scalable (to produce in large numbers), and meets the minimum performance requirements for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The Fitzpatrick College of Nursing has provided critical supplies needed for testing the designed prototype.
Seeking parts that are readily available in the supply chain (using as few sophisticated components as possible) is expected to speed assembly, thereby addressing the dire situation as quickly as possible. According to Dr. Nataraj, the objective is to have a prototype ready and validated by ECRI Institute by mid-April. The team is in conversation with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development about engaging local industry in the manufacturing and distribution of the finished ventilators. In addition to saving lives, this operation should contribute to stimulating the local and state economy.