VITAL COVID-19 ventilator prototype developed in less than 40 days by NASA

April 27, 2020

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in US have come up with an easy-to-build, inexpensive high-pressure ventilator to help with the unexpected shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL) prototype was developed in only 37 days at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, and recently passed a critical trial at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City.

NASA engineers designed VITAL to use fewer, commonly available parts – the machine is thus simpler, faster to build, and easier to maintain. The design is also easy to modify to suit the needs of different facilities, such as field hospitals and makeshift care centres. However, VITAL patients still need to be sedated and intubated with an oxygen tube, and VITAL itself has a service life of only up to four months.

According to NASA, the administration office at Caltech, which manages JPL, will offer a free license for the prototype machine. NASA is currently trying to get an emergency authorisation from the US FDA for VITAL and is seeking private medical firms to handle its manufacturing.

While intensive care units are seeing COVID-19 patients who need highly dynamic ventilators and round-the-clock care, Dr. J.D. Polk, NASA’s Chief health and medical officer, said VITAL is intended to “decrease the likelihood patients will get to that advanced stage of the disease and require more advanced ventilator assistance.”

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