Makerere University develops low-cost ventilator to avert Covid-19 pandemic

The schematic diagram of the proposed Ventilator Architecture. Diagram Credit: Makerere University

Makerere University in collaboration with Resilient Africa Network (RAN), Kiira Motors Corporation and Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in a project of the School of Public Health is working to produce an open design low-cost ventilator to support the Ugandan health sector in the struggle to avert covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative comes after Makerere medical researchers projected an increased global demand for ventilators resultant from the continual increase in severe COVID-19 cases.

The ventilator innovators believe that an increase in conventional ventilator production is very likely to fall short of global demand and with high associated cost.

“In the United States alone, the COVID-19 pandemic has been projected to result into ventilator shortages in the order of 300,000-700,000 units. Uganda has 12 functional Intensive Care Units equipped with a total of 55 functional beds implying an estimated 55 ventilators; in other words, 1.3 beds (with ventilators) per a million people.” The statement read in parts.

For countries like Uganda, acquiring enough ventilators for the medical sector most especially during this period of rampant rise of COVID-19 cases may be highly expensive considering an approximate cost of USD 25,000 per ventilator, hence, the need for low cost ventilators that can be manufactured locally.

The global statistical count of coronavirus stands at around 1.2 Million of the confirmed cases, with Fifty-Two (52) in Uganda. Critical COVID-19 cases once hospitalized and placed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for medical administration will require a respiratory assistive technology known as a Ventilator to support the respiratory system of the victims.

“These parties are therefore working round the clock toward the development of an Open Design Low-Cost Ventilator adapting open access designs from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Florida, and other Public License Ventilator Technology Developers, to the needs in Africa placing strategic emphasis on Supply Chain Localization to engender the scaling of production. The capacity developed in the area for local content participation in the manufacture of Low-Cost ventilators will be valuable to Uganda even beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The statement added.

The proposed Ventilator is based on an electromechanical Architecture utilizing Motors, Potentiometers, Air Pressure Transducers, Air Flow Transducers, a Valve Mask Compression Unit, Inhalation & Exhalation Control Valves, and a Monitoring System. These assist in inhalation and exhalation by increasing and decreasing the patient’s airway pressure or tidal volume through controlled inhalation and exhalation.

Schematic Diagram of the Proposed Low-Cost Ventilator Architecture

The Ventilator Architecture, Operational Mechanism and underlying technology are simailar to Vehicular Powertrain Systems from a Technology Perspective.

The capacity Kiira Motors Corporation has developed in Electric Vehicle Systems Development position this collaborative effort as a timely intervention leveraging National Resource available at established Facilities at Luweero Industries Limited, Uganda Industrial Research Institute, among others, to engender the manufacturing of key components and support the short to medium term production needs.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation will work closely with the Ministry of HealthUganda National Bureau of Standards and other Key Stakeholders to provide policy guidance and coordination to ensure the project results meet National and International Standards for Technology of such a nature.

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