NASA engineers have succeeded in constructing a high-pressure ventilator in 37 days. The ventilator was designed specifically for COVID-19 patients and it is called VITAL – Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally. The space agency now seeks FDA approval to have the machine used for coronavirus patients after it passed a series of tests on a “high fidelity human patient simulator.”
VITAL was tested at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and school director Mathew Levin endorsed the use of the new ventilator prototype, saying it “performed as expected under a wide variety of simulated patient conditions.” He said the machine would be helpful at keeping COVID-19 patients alive and well both in the United States and throughout the world.
According to NASA, government adoption of VITAL would be good for freeing up the country’s limited ventilators for COVID-19 patients under critical care. The space agency said they are specialists with spacecraft but have expert engineers who strongly believe they can help the government with the pervading coronavirus situation by building ventilators. More so, the ventilator prototype can be constructed with fewer parts than the conventional ventilator.
“We specialize in spacecraft, not medical-device manufacturing,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Michael Watkins. “But excellent engineering, rigorous testing, and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties. When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise, and drive.”
While traditional ventilators can be applied to various healthcare purposes, NASA’s VITAL can only be applied to COVID-19 patients. Again, VITAL has a life-span of four months while traditional ventilators can last several years before replacement.
VITAL was designed and built by NASA engineers at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Mathew Levin, Director of Innovation for the Human Simulation Lab and professor of Anesthesiology, Preoperative and Pain Medicine, and Genetics and Genomics Sciences at Icahn School of Medicine said all doctors who subjected the machine to critical tests gave it the thumb-up and approved for use.
Although NASA is still waiting for the FDA to approve the new device after applying under the emergency use authorization, the space agency is looking to collaborate with commercial partners so that the new ventilator can be manufactured on a commercial scale under a free license initiative.