PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Nearly 200 volunteers from different backgrounds and locations came together a couple months ago with the mission to rapidly create a low-cost, emergency-use ventilator for COVID-19 patients around the world. They’ve named their effort and not-for-profit company LifeMech.
“When Lakshman brought me into this thing in mid-March, we thought we were going to be saving Oregonians, so it was all hands on deck,” said Jason Hilbourne, a mechanical engineer and the founder of Utensile, a product development company in Portland.
Although it appears the demand for ventilators is behind us, the pace at which people from all over the world remotely came together and developed a sophisticated device is remarkable.
“Randy [Steck] and the team here would finish up and then in the morning, you know, our control engineer in Germany would wake up and he would continue, and while we were asleep they would finish a significant feature, and next day we would all integrate. So there was, literally, round-the-clock development happening as people from different geographies pitched in to help and make this thing happen,” said Lakshman Krishnamurthy, an Intel fellow.
They’re not the first team to do this, but Oregon Medical Board vice chair, cardiologist, and LifeMech Executive Director Dr. Saurabh Gupta says their machine has an edge.
“We’re fairly confident that our device that we have designed with all of the control systems that our team has been designing is superior and has more functionality relevant to those devices,” Gupta said.
For the first time this past weekend, the team demonstrated their working prototype on a simulator at OHSU.
The Director of Respiratory Care Services at OHSU, David Quitmeyer, says while the hospital has enough ventilators right now, LifeMech's machine does perform well, and what stands out to them about this device are the safety features.
Additionally, the ventilator is open source. Allowing people all over the world to freely use this device is important to the team.
“We’re not locking down any intellectual property,” said former Intel vice president, now consultant and entrepreneur, Randy Steck. “We are freely giving the results of our efforts to a common cause and invite anybody to take advantage of this to allow the ventilators to be produced wherever they’re needed.”
A couple weeks ago, the team applied for FDA emergency use authorization for their ventilator. Even though non-commercial ventilators may not be needed right now, the team is still working on improvements and raising money they’d spent themselves throughout this project.
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