Battling Covid-19: Start-ups chip in to resolve India's ventilator crisis

A Mumbai-based 3D printing start-up Extrudify Technologies has recently manufactured ventilator splitters. The splitters allow one ventilator to support up to two patients under emergency use during times of acute equipment shortages.
The coronavirus pandemic has created a health care crisis of epic proportions across the globe, and with the cases surging every day there is a dire need for adequate respiratory support.

India, for instance, has less than 50,000 ventilators, which will be insufficient to deal with the rising Covid-19 cases in the country.

In a situation like this, several start-ups are coming up with unconventional systems and indigenous ventilators to solve this problem. One such start-up is Bengaluru-based InnAccel Technologies. The medtech start-up has developed a one-of-a-kind continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system, which is non-invasive. It can run without electricity as it has a six-hour battery backup, and an ability to ventilate with ambient air if oxygen is not available.

The CPAP system could act as a backup ventilation system when a ventilator or trained staff for intubation is not immediately available. “We had developed a neonatal CPAP system, which was designed for premature babies and we built Saans Pro on that platform for adults in a span of two months,” said Siraj Dhanani, founder of InnAccel Technologies.

Weighing around 5 kgs, Saans Pro has been tested in a rickshaw and was able to maintain the air pressure for 12 hours. So, it can also be used on patients on the go, claims Dhanani.

The company has a patent on the product, which can also be manually powered in adverse conditions. The company has the capacity to produce 1,000 such CPAP systems in a month and will start manufacturing from May.

“CPAP is currently being used by most Italian health practitioners. Mild to moderate cases of respiratory failure can be managed on CPAP. It has a hood, which reduces the chances of dissemination of the virus, giving protection to health care workers,” said Vimal Bharadwaj, a medical practitioner at the department of critical care medicine at Narayana Health in Bengaluru.

A Mumbai-based 3D printing start-up Extrudify Technologies has recently manufactured ventilator splitters. The splitters allow one ventilator to support up to two patients under emergency use during times of acute equipment shortages. Two ventilator splitter devices are needed for each ventilator — one on the intake and one on the return. They split the airflow to the ventilator, acting as a Y connector.

“We have managed to get the device stimulated with ventilators and test lungs at Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre,” said Extrudify Technologies founder Harsh Sanghvi. This technology was first used in the US after the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency authorisation allowing ventilators to be modified using a splitter tube.

However, Indian experts said splitters should only be used when there is no other way out. “No one can say with certainty that there won’t be any cross infection using a ventilator splitter. A lot of filters are used to avoid any spread of infection but knowing the nature of coronavirus, a human error could lead to a transmission,” said Somesh Mittal, chief executive officer (CEO) of a private hospital in Bengaluru.

Domestic firms are also sourcing ventilator parts from within the country to manufacture them at a much lower cost.
Rajkot-based CNC machine tools maker, Jyoti CNC Automation, has developed an indigenous ventilator costing about one-sixth of what is presently available in the market.

Named Dhaman-1, which means a blower that pumps the air, has been developed within 10 days at Jyoti CNC’s Rajkot facility and costs Rs 1 lakh.

According to company chairman and managing director (MD), Parakramsinh Jadeja, an initial 1,000 units of the ventilator will be donated to the Gujarat government for Covid-19 and other needs.

Aerobiosys Innovations, a start-up incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad’s Center for Healthcare Entrepreneurship (CFHE) has also developed a low-cost, portable ventilator called Jeevan Lite. Priced at Rs 1 lakh, it can be remotely operated through a phone app.

“Its wireless connectivity and remote monitoring makes it unique,” said Renu John, head of the department of biomedical engineering at IIT Hyderabad.

Noida-based start-up AgVa Healthcare has come up with a cost effective and portable ventilator, which is less than a foot in height.

The company has ramped up production and will manufacture 10,000 units per month. The device weighs 2.5 kgs and is priced at Rs 1.5 lakh.


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