British motorsport and advanced technology business, Prodrive has worked with Cambridge University to develop a new low-cost ventilator for global use.The OVSI (Open Ventilator System Initiative) unit has been designed using components from outside the medical supply chain, so that it can be brought to market far quicker and cheaper than the current range of commercially available ventilators.
In just five weeks, Prodrive has taken the original concept from Cambridge University’s Whittle Laboratory and turned it into a full working prototype ready for production.
According to the OVSI, a consortium of academics, engineers, intensive care medics, civil society organisations and industry partners, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has suggested there could be as many as 10 million cases of COVID-19 in Africa within three to six months. Yet there are fewer than 2000 working ventilators across the continent’s 41 countries, with ten having none at all.
“Fulfilling the unique requirements of local clinicians was key to this project,” said Professor Axel Zeitler from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, and OVSI team lead. “Clinicians told us the ventilator needed to cover the wide spectrum of patient ventilation requirements, and therefore work in three modes – non-invasive, mandatory or patient-triggered ventilation.”
A team of 20 Prodrive engineers has worked on the project seven days a week since early April at the company’s headquarters in Banbury, Oxfordshire.The team took the Whittle Laboratory’s initial concept and began rapidly evolving the design into parts that could be manufactured from medically appropriate materials in the high production volumes that would be required.
Prodrive also designed the electronic and electrical system architecture and wrote completely new software to control the unit with input from clinicians to ensure ease of use in an intensive care environment.