As the effects of COVID-19 are felt around the world and treatment plans are defined and refined for those requiring hospitalisation, one thing is clear. Ventilators are a key tool in the fight against the virus, with 89% of patients in the ICU requiring ventilation, according to a recent JAMA article.
As those ICUs have become more crowded and ventilator demand has spiked, I’ve taken a look at some of the companies already in this space who are racing to increase their production as well as how other businesses are lending their expertise to make up the shortfall.
Treating COVID-19 requires more than just ventilators and one of the best-equipped devices on the market at the moment is VOCSN, a multi-function ventilator which can perform the same tasks as a ventilator, nebuliser, portable oxygen concentrator, cough assist unit and suction unit in one device.
It’s produced by US-based Ventec who received FDA approval in 2017 and began rolling VOCSON out in 2018. They’re ramping up production in their Indiana-based facility and announced a partnership with General Motors to help them build up to 200,000 VOCSN machines, combining “Ventec’s respiratory care expertise with GM’s manufacturing might”.
Italy has been one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic so far, so it’s no surprise that their only native ventilator producer, Siare, has experienced a huge surge in demand for their products. Reports are that the Italian government have asked Siare to increase production from 125 to 500 ventilators a month, even drafting in the Italian armed forces to help meet the quota.
New Zealand-based Fisher and Paykel are also stepping up production of their Optiflow™ Nasal High Flow Therapy device. Whilst not a ventilator on it’s own, the device has seen a spike in demand, as Nasal High Flow has been recognised by the WHO for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 induced respiratory failure. Their MD & CEO Lewis Gradon spoke of F&P’s efforts to “ship products quickly, assemble them and meet the need for training, particularly in Wuhan”, where the virus is thought to have originated from.
Governments around the world have been taking action to try and increase ventilator production. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson (who was recently diagnosed with the virus) and 10 Downing Street has called for “all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help this national crisis”.
One firm answering the call has been Dyson. Usually used to the design and manufacture of household appliances, they’ve designed a ventilator from scratch in just 10 days, with 15,000 to be produced.
Staying in the UK, Smith & Nephew have also joined the race. They’re collaborating with Oxford University and King’s College London to create Oxvent, currently undergoing the regulatory approval process. Once this step has been completed, it’s set to enter production in Smith & Nephew’s plant in Hull. CEO Roland Diggelman was quoted saying that S&N were “proud to support this vital effort and help meet the ventilator challenge to ensure the NHS is equipped for treating patients with COVID-19”.
Across the Atlantic some of the heavyweights from the manufacturing world have lent their considerable expertise and capabilities to the cause. Automobile manufacturer Ford have partnered with GE with a plan to produce 50,000 simplified ventilators by July. Following that, the potential will be there for 30,000 additional ventilators to be produced a month. They expect to have produced 1,500 ventilators by the end of April and 12,000 by the end of May.
Global giant Medtronic have given away the design specifications for its PB 560 ventilator to anyone willing to help meet demand; one of the companies taking up the offer is Tesla. After donating 1,200 ventilators to LA hospitals in March, CEO Elon Musk announced that their plant in Buffalo, New York would be converted to make ventilators “as soon as humanly possible”.
As the global business community comes together to meet demand, there are likely far more stories than just these of companies combining their know how and innovation to help meet the global need. I’d love to hear them – if you’ve heard of a business pivoting or utilising their resources to create ventilators I’d love to hear it.
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