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Oxford University and King’s College develop ventilator to support Covid-19 crisis

In a bid to increase the UK's capacity for ventilator manufacture amid the Covid-19 pandemic; an interdisciplinary team of engineers, anaesthetists and surgeons from the University of Oxford and King’s College London have been busy building and testing prototypes that can be manufactured using techniques and tools available in well-equipped universities and SME workshops around the country.

The team, led by Oxford Professors Andrew Farmery, Mark Thompson and Alfonso Castrejon-Pita alongside King's College London’s Dr Federico Formenti, have been working to define novel mechanisms of operation that will meet the required specifications for safe and reliable function. The design aims to exploit off-the-shelf components and equipment.

The researchers are working in response to UK government calls to increase the country’s ventilator manufacturing capacity due to COVID-19. Demonstrating safety and reliability and achieving regulatory approval of the opensource design will be necessary, and once this has been achieved, the approach could unlock the potential for a new kind of distributed manufacturing effort.

Government coordination and ongoing rapid competitive selection of the best design concepts will enable universities, SMEs and large industry to make and assemble these ventilators close to their local NHS services. This may allow local scaling according to demand, and reduce stress on NHS distribution.

Professor Thompson, Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science, said: "This extraordinary situation demands an extraordinary response and we are pulling all the talents together in an exceptional team combining decades of experience translating research into the clinic, brilliant innovators, and highly skilled technicians."

Professor Farmery, Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, added: "Ordinarily, to develop a medical device such as this would be a huge task, and would take years.  We have designed a simple and robust ventilator which will serve the specific task of managing the very sickest patients during this crisis.

"By pooling available expertise from inside and outside the University, and making the design freely available to local manufacturers, we are pleased to be able to respond to this challenge so quickly."

Within a matter of weeks it is hoped a prototype could be developed which would satisfy MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) requirements, and the scientists believe a mature manufacturing network at scale could be achievable within 2-3 months.

The Department of Engineering Science has committed to supporting prototyping efforts and the team is looking for options to develop regulatory approval. The next steps are ensuring the prototype has buy-in from all stakeholders, especially healthcare staff, and to demonstrate compliance with the MHRA requirements of performance, safety and reliability.

Professor Mark Thompson says: ‘The academic partners can provide free to use plans and designs available for download; central communication with workshops at Oxford to provide advice; step-by-step videos and guides for assembly; along with videos to facilitate training and use.’

King’s College London have offered the use of their workshops to manufacture/3D print bespoke components.

Dr Formenti says: ‘Thinking beyond the current pandemic, we are also aiming to share the know-how and refinement of this relatively inexpensive approach with other countries.’

Find out more on the project website at:

I am a 31-year-old tech lover, self-confessed geek and football fanatic! When I am not playing with the latest gadget you will often find me watching my favourite TV shows including Game of Thrones, Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory. Feel free to follow me on Instagram @robbiedunion or Twitter @robbiedunion

25 Mar 2020, 13:41


April 2, 2020 05:49

  • Moderated

I live in the New York area and we experience now a terrible pandemic situation that kills every day many people. This article from Oxford University raised my interest that people may to try some simple ideas and help save people's lives.
Mr Cnscholfield according to his comment below has a much simple approach to make a simple respirator that in emergency field hospitals may save lives prior to the patients reaching well-utilised hospitals. Please if someone or Mr Cnscholfield may contact me via email or in this site to discuss more about that idea, it will be a great opportunity to help society go trough this terrible pandemic situation and maybe save some life.
Ion Dumitriu +13472651082 nor

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April 2, 2020 15:14

All brilliant stuff people,but the man is right. We have to get past the regulations in a hurry. They can't get in the way of your timely work. Cheers4now R

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March 31, 2020 13:22

This seems to be a sophistocated piece of kit, but looks complex to operate where a nurse may have to attend to many patients. Each of the numerous components risks breaks in the supply chain brought about by many other countries needed the same parts.
This is already long past being a dire emergency in Italy. All that is needed is a gas mixer, pressure regulator, solenoid valve, a face mask, gas flow meter, and a CO2 meter. The controller regulates pressure and hence flow and the CO2 regulates the inspiration period. Blood O2 saturation can use a finger oximeter.
The most difficult part to source is the CO2 sensor. I once made 20 of these to measure end-tidal CO2 and sourcing the sensor was difficult. But the more wider range chemosensors cover the physiological range (say 4-6% CO2).

So I urge the industry to create simple solutions. I might need one of these.
As for the MHRA testing them, their criteria must be relaxed. This article was dated 5 days ago. Has it been approved yet?

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