Udayavni Special

COVID-19: Indian-American couple develops low-cost ventilator


PTI, May 26, 2020, 10:03 AM IST

Washington: An Indian-American couple has developed a low-cost portable emergency ventilator which is soon to hit the production stage and will be available in India and the developing world at an affordable rate to help doctors deal with the COVID-19 patients.

Prompted by the lack of adequate ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic, Devesh Ranjan, a professor and associate chair in the prestigious Georgia Tech’s George W Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and his wife Kumuda Ranjan, a practicing family physician in Atlanta, developed the emergency ventilator from concept to prototype in just about three weeks time.

“If you can do manufacturing of scale, it can be produced (item cost) in less than USD 100. Even with a price point of USD 500, they (the manufacturer) would have enough money to make sure that they are making enough profit in the market,” Professor Ranjan told PTI.

He said a ventilator of this type, on average in the US, costs USD 10,000.

Ranjan, however, clarified that theirs was not an ICU ventilator, which is more sophisticated and costs more.

This Open-AirVentGT has been developed to address acute respiratory distress syndrome, a common complication for COVID-19 patients which causes their lungs to stiffen, requiring their breathing to be assisted by ventilators, he said.

The ventilator developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology uses electronic sensors and computer control to manage key clinical parameters such as respiration rate, tidal volume (the amount of air moved into and out of the lungs during each cycle), inspiration and expiration ratio, and pressure on the lungs.

“The whole goal of this project was to make a low-cost makeshift ventilator that gives those controls to the physician,” Dr Kumuda told PTI, noting that there is going to be a global shortage of ventilator given the massive spread of coronavirus, which so far has killed more than 345,000 people globally and infected over 5.4 million.

In the United States till Monday, more than 98,000 Americans had died and nearly 1.7 million had tested positive. Scientists are racing against time to develop a vaccine or come out with therapeutic treatment.

Born and brought up in Patna, Bihar, Ranjan earned his degree in engineering from Regional Engineering College, Trichy followed by Masters and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been teaching at Georgia Tech for the last six years.

Kumuda moved with her parents to the US from Ranchi when she was six. She did her medical training and residency in New Jersey.

Both Ranjan and Kumuda said that India had the potential to become the global manufacturing of low-cost ventilators and export across the world at a rate that is affordable to all.

Professor Ranjan said that the low-cost ventilator has been developed keeping in mind the requirements of countries like India and those in Africa, where the affordability care is a very big factor in providing healthcare to the people.

The idea was to develop a lost cost ventilator, which can be manufactured very easily using the already available supply chain in India, he said.

Rajan said that the team has been approached by Georgia Tech alumni in Ghana and India to set up manufacturing lines in their countries.

“The impact of this could be significant if other parts of the world are hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Having equipment that can be made quickly where it is needed and with the kind of control system doctors need could really help address the worldwide impact of this virus,” he said.

The prototype is now being developed into a real product by Singapore-based Renew Group, headed by Ravi Sajwan, an Indian-American from Uttarakhand.

“We have built a wide collaborative network with a single focus of getting more ventilators into the most disadvantaged health systems in the world in order to help doctors and patients dealing with COVID-19,” Sajwan said.

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