Low-cost Covid-19 ventilator for poorer countries planned

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UK researchers are developing a robust, low-cost ventilator designed to be used in the developing world to help patients suffering the effects of Covid-19.

Ventilators are typically expensive to purchase and maintain and require considerable training for personnel to use correctly. Most also rely on the provision of high-flow oxygen and medically pure compressed air, which are not readily available in many countries around the world.

A team co-ordinated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) aims to produce and test plans for the creation of an affordable, reliable and easy-to-operate ventilator, which does not rely so heavily on compressed gases and mains electricity supply.

It is anticipated that these plans will be used by a wide variety of manufacturing groups across the world, thereby reducing the need for expensive transportation and maintenance.

“Together, we hope to make a positive impact in the current fight against Covid-19 and afterwards in the treatment of other respiratory conditions in countries where ventilators are not as readily available as they are here in the UK,” said Ian Lazarus, project lead.

So far, £760,000 has been allocated to funding the prototypes, money that has been awarded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

This project, known as HPLV (High-Performance Low-Cost Ventilator), builds on the original designs for the HEV (High Energy physics Ventilator) which was developed at CERN. The HEV prototype design will be re-engineered to make it ready for regulatory approval and for manufacture.

“HEV was born at CERN during the first lockdown, thanks to a dedicated team of physicists and engineers who adapted their expertise to fight the pandemic,” said HEV team leader Paula Collins.

“We are grateful to our international team of medical advisers who helped us to orient the HEV design towards the needs of low and middle-income countries and to build a ventilator focused on quality and patient comfort.”

The project will run for six months from October 2020 to April 2021, with a small amount of funding in the following 12 months to support the transfer of the HPLV technology to industrial partners.

Earlier this year, a team of engineers from the University of Glasgow developed an affordable ventilator called GlasVent designed to be used with minimal training. 

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