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The Spiro Wave is based on a project developed 10 years ago by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The first batch of new and inexpensive mechanical ventilation (ventilators) will soon be released in New York.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about a shortage of ventilators for critically ill patients. This prompted the city to ask local producers to fill an empty niche..
Industrial ventilators cost tens of thousands of dollars, but production of such devices with reduced functions can cost only a few thousand. They can be especially useful for developing countries that do not have the funds to buy expensive equipment..
As the death rate in New York increased several times in March, the state authorities began to fear that they would need many more such devices. They saw what happened in Italy, where a shortage of ventilators forced doctors to make difficult decisions about who would get access to machines that could potentially save someone’s life..
The federal government gave New York some help, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it wasn’t enough.
“What are we going to do with 400 fans if we need 30,000?” – asked Cuomo a rhetorical question at a press conference on March 24.
And then New York decided to take matters into their own hands, says James Patchett, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC)..
“The mayor called and made it clear that we need to focus on making ventilators and all [medical equipment] that we could manufacture in New York,” he says. “The supply chain became unreliable and we had to do our best, relying only on New Yorkers.”.
Meanwhile, executives at Newlab, a Brooklyn-based business incubator, were also watching dark news from Italy about the spread of COVID-19..
“When the virus started spreading in New York and we were faced with the closure of Newlab, I thought, my God, we have all these talented people, and we really have to do something if we can,” says the founder of Newlab Scott Cohen, who has had COVID-19 himself.
Fortunately, his illness was mild. After recovering, Cohen stumbled upon a project of an inexpensive ventilator made by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 10 years ago..
Cohen was not the only one who remembered this project. Nevan Hanumara, who is engaged in mechanical engineering research at MIT, says that different people who knew about this development began to turn to his colleagues..
“They started getting emails from former students on that team asking, how can we do this? We want to know how to do it, ”says Hanumara..
The project is based on medical equipment with a manual pump, known as the ADR apparatus (manual breathing apparatus). With the help of ADR, ambulance doctors can urgently supply air to the patient’s lungs if he has breathing problems. Hand squeezing the rubber bag delivers air to the patient’s lungs if the person cannot breathe on their own. A cheap mechanical analog of a ventilator automates this task..
However, everything turned out to be not so simple. Too much pressure can damage the patient’s lungs. MIT decided to resume the implementation of the old project. The original device required significant improvement..
The pace of work was exceptional. “I would say that the work that is usually done in a year was done in a month,” says Hanumara.
The design company Newlab 10XBeta has created a version of the MIT model called the Spiro Wave. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the emergency use of this ventilator last week.
Several other groups are also working on the development of low-cost devices, including Rice University and the University of Minnesota. A device developed in Minnesota called Coventor has also received FDA approval for emergency use. Boston Scientific plans to release 3 thousand devices and sell them at cost price – one thousand dollars apiece.
Boyce Technologies from New York has already started production of Spiro Waves. The company received $ 10 million from NYCEDC with a commitment to purchase the first 3,000 units. The company says it can manufacture hundreds of machines a day in New York and thousands a day around the world. Estimated cost will range from $ 2,500 to $ 5,000.
The coronavirus outbreak in New York is on the decline, the number of deaths has been steadily declining. However, this may only be the first wave of the epidemic..
“There will probably be a second and third wave of coronavirus, and those waves could occur at the same time as the flu,” said Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of the New York City City Health System. “I don’t think it’s over. Perhaps we will use Spiro Wave devices in our ICUs in the future. “.
In addition, according to Cohen, NYCEDC is receiving requests from around the world for the supply of devices..
“I’ve talked to people from Brazil and Mexico, some African countries, and they can’t afford to buy $ 30,000 or $ 40,000 devices,” he says..
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to Help Build Machine in Developing Countries.
“It has tremendous potential in the Southern Hemisphere, including beyond the end of this pandemic,” said Melissa Berman, President and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.