Device to Help Win Virus War

Ventilator Boost for Regions

 

As printed in The Advertiser, Thursday 30th April 2020
By Charles Miranda

ADELAIDE scientists have helped create a groundbreaking “field ventilator” to combat coronavirus in remote regions across Australia and overseas.

And the device will go into production in Australia, which means no issues with supply lines and allows the ventilators to be directly dispatched to those most in need, including allies in the Pacific with challenged health care systems.

A consortium of leading doctors, engineers and medical researchers from South Australia and Melbourne had already teamed up as part of the Australian Lung Health Initiative to develop the world’s first lung-function scanner.

But the coronavirus pandemic prompted the team to fast-track the development of a low-cost ventilator, which does not need a hospital or ICU-trained staff to operate it.

Andreas Fouras, the founder of Melbourne-based medical tech group 4Dx, developed the device initially as a research tool.

However, COVID-19 and fears of a global shortage of ventilators prompted a rethink.

Extra work by the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute and the University of Adelaide, as well as independent peer reviews and testing, mean the product is now ready for use.

“I’m actually sincerely hoping noone uses it, which is the funny thing to say about putting so much time and effort into it,” Professor Fouras, pictured, said of the device. “But it has become clear no one could build them fast enough or cheap enough to supply in large numbers to places that are not as fortunate as the great hospitals we have in Australia.”

He said there was nothing else on the market like it, with ventilators tending to fall into two categories – either emergency ones, or more sophisticated instruments in a Western hospital ICU.

The field ventilators cost $2000 as opposed to $16,000 for ICU models.

Prof Fouras said his device was critical, given the perceived shortage of hospital and ICU beds, particularly in the Pacific Islands during the COVID-19 emergency.

He said the device had been made with simplicity in mind.

“We’ve made sure the device is really not only unbreakable but nice and simple to use,” he said.

“Turn it on and it’s good to go, hopefully to save lives.”

It was Prof Fouras and his med-tech firm that last month developed a way to fast-track coronavirus diagnosis, reducing the turnaround time from 48 hours to three hours.