IMR Playing Lead Role in 2 International Ventilator Initiatives

Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR), co-funded as part of Enterprise Irelands Technology Centre Program, has been working on innovative responses to the global demand for life-saving ventilators. Having started work on COVID-19 initiatives at the very start of the pandemic, IMR is helping to research and develop two new ventilator systems in collaboration with leading European and US-based organisations.

IMR, Artesyn Biosolutions, local Irish company Airpower, and one of the top global experts in ventilators, Steve Tunnell, based in San Diego, have now completed the first unit ready for shipment for testing in the US this week. This system is intended to be a ‘battlefield’ Ventilator called EirVent.

EirVent is portable with no moving parts and minimal power requirements making it ideal for use ‘in the field’. The rapid build ventilator is based on a dual supply of compressed air and oxygen delivered at a specified mix, flow, and pressure.

It can also be produced at a lower cost making it affordable for COVID-19 response teams and healthcare organisations in emerging or developing markets which are now becoming epicentres for COVID-19. These markets will be a key target for the delivery of the EirVent. IMR also developed the hardware and software for the controls and GUI using the IMR Industrial IoT (IIoT) platform.

Once approval for use is granted, the team will work with manufacturing partners to scale production to meet the needs especially in developing regions of the world.

The second system, which IMR is developing in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Malone Group, works on the principle of compressing an AMBU bag in a controlled manner directly to a patient requiring ventilation.

The AMBU bag ventilator was developed over the past 12 weeks, led by Tim Noone, Group Projects Director at Malone Group, and the team worked to design-build a device that can deliver the basic clinical requirements of ventilation.

IMR also focussed on breathing assist modes to help with the essential task of weaning patients off full ventilation. The team worked directly with MIT to share ideas and improvements and the AMBU bag ventilator is based on an open-source platform provided by MIT. The design intent is for the device to be low cost, simple, and built from readily available components. A version of this was requested in the New York Emergency.

Ireland has a unique capability in that it already produces a significant portion of the world’s high-end ventilators already from leading international companies so there is an active program to work with local medical device manufacturers in Ireland to produce these systems here.

Barry Kennedy, CEO of Irish Manufacturing Research, said: “Thanks to the innovative work carried out by our teams in Dublin and Mullingar, including our team of 70 researchers in the midlands, and in partnership with globally recognised research institutes and companies, IMR is delivering solutions that can have a scalable and global reach.

“As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a global demand for ventilators and modern life support ventilators are scarce so Ireland, through IMR playing a leading role, is helping address this demand, both right now and in the future for the expected ‘Second Wave’ of this pandemic.

“We are targeting to bring these new innovative systems to market for between €5,000 to €10,000 which is significantly below the cost of high-end systems normally used in hospitals. We have also developed sophisticated, but readily repeatable and affordable, electronic controls and user interfaces for the caregiver to use.”

Speaking about their partnership with IMR, Jonathan Downey, Operations Director at ARTeSYN Biosolutions said: I would just like to commend IMR on how quickly they pivoted to begin research on ventilator systems given their foresight for the global demand for such systems in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This crucial research would not have started if it were not for the fantastic team within IMR and I’m proud to be part of an international network of organisations, working towards solutions that could hopefully save lives.”

Stephen Malone, CEO of Malone Group said “The strong working relationship with IMR on robotics research allowed the teams to mobilise without delay. With access to expertise from MIT, as well as IMR, progress was made quickly and we are proud to be part of this extended group who diverted resources at a time of national crisis.”