Spiro Wave Draws Inspiration from MIT Project and Designs an Automatic Resuscitator
Tom Spendlove posted on April 28, 2020 |
Spiro Wave, a low-cost ventilator, was developed with inspiration from the MIT E-Vent project.
(Image courtesy of The New York Times.)
(Image courtesy of The New York Times.)

Charles Boyce likes to say that New York can build anything. During the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting shortage of medical supplies and personal protective equipment in the state of New York, Boyce was able to help prove that statement. Boyce Technologies partnered with Newlab, 10XBeta, Otherlab, and Rockefeller Philantropy Advisors to manufacture ventilators for the city and surrounding areas. Spiro Wave took inspiration from the MIT E-Vent project and developed a new low-cost ventilator system meant to automate the manual resuscitator bags found in most hospital rooms. The name Spiro Wave comes from the Latin word for breathe, spir, and the idea that the COVID-19 virus is pushing across the world like a series of waves.

On April 17 the device was granted Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and was classified as an emergency resuscitator purposed to “provide basic ventilator functionality to a single adult patient, in an emergency situation when there are no other options available to the patient.”

The team behind Spiro Wave is quick to point out that the device will not replace conventional ventilators but instead will act as a “bridging solution” in an emergency when a patient needs a ventilator, and will free up standard ventilators for the patients with the most critical care needs. Major variables that can be controlled by Spiro Wave are “tidal volume, respiratory rate (BPMs), I/E ratio, and airway limit pressure.” Positive end expiratory pressure is controllable up to 25 cmH2O. Hospitals using the device will need the manual resuscitator, a single limb breathing circuit, the patient valve, a PEEP valve, a HEPA filter, and a right-angle connector to attach the device to the patient’s intubation. Allowing the user to control these variables gives an intubated patient a better chance of surviving until a conventional ventilator is engaged.

The Spiro Wave is designed to be low cost and easily manufactured, with the first rounds of systems being produced and used locally, with an eye on worldwide distribution. Estimations are for a production volume of 500 units per week, with the hope that more can be produced if the need exists. The design will be made available to the group’s manufacturing partners in almost a franchise fashion, where manufacturers can get components, guidance, testing information and support from Spiro Wave to create their own units around the world. During a press conference on April 20 the group pointed out that the history of New York public health disasters had a common theme of “insufficient coordination,” and that they hoped to be one part of a global solution.

While the first production batches are being sent to New York City hospitals exclusively, the group is taking requests from other hospitals with a need for the devices through the REQUEST link on its website. This is a great example of engineers working with scientists, medical professionals and logistics experts to design and build lifesaving equipment. Taking inspiration from the MIT E-Vent project and completing the process of tech transfer is excellent to see, and I’ll be interested to watch how far-reaching and prolific this program becomes.

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