Colleges and Universities Work to Protect COVID-19 Patients

Current crisis Academia R&D projects carrying engineering innovation.

Projects around the world from college campuses and maker spaces are attempting to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus or mitigate its damage. Samsun Lampotang, professor of anesthesiology from the University of Florida, said that it’s not just ventilators in short supply around the world but also ventilator components. His UF team established the Open Source Ventilator Project, a program that created and released plans for building an exhalation valve. The valves are built from around $125 of hardware store parts and take around 15 minutes to build. According to the documentation, this valve has a mean time between failure of approximately 233,000 cycles. The goal is 1,000,000 cycles to give a patient three weeks of non-stop breathing support at 30 beats per minute.

The OneBreath ventilators developed by Stanford students almost a decade ago are back in the news this month. Matt Callaghan was inspired to create a ventilator suitable for disaster relief in underdeveloped areas during the avian flu and built a machine to give continual breathing support that runs on air power. The project’s website states that the ventilators are not immediately for sale but the team is working to provide access to those in critical need.

Laval University in Quebec’s Infectious Disease Research Center announced in March that its plant-based technology partnership with Medicago yielded a vaccine-like particle of the virus. University of Manitoba received almost $1 million for two studies. Dr. Michelle Dreidger’s study is looking at management strategies for Canada, specifically the Metis population. Dr. Stephane MacLachlan is working with Indigenous groups to develop countermeasures to the spread of COVID-19. The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) is building animal models for the disease after learning that the ferret is the best candidate for testing. Dr. Volker Gerdts received around $1 million of grant money to help build a pilot-scale manufacturing facility for vaccine testing materials.

University of Minnesota engineering and anesthesiology students and faculty created the Coventor, a ventilator based around a mechanical actuator that will operate the artificial manual breathing unit bags found in most hospital rooms. The system was designed to have a small footprint, easy assembly and high mobility. Several other universities around the world have projects in process, all stemming from the desire to help and combat the COVID-19 pandemic.