Covid-19 crisis: IISc set to commercialise ventilator for treatment

“We are at an advanced stage of discussions with a well-established industrial house in India that is interested in co-developing a medical ventilator product jointly with us using our core technology,” said Duvvuri Subrahmanyam, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at IISc and one of the founders of ‘Project Praana.’
An engineering team headed by faculty members and researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have successfully completed the prototyping of an intensive care unit grade ventilator which is now in the process of commercialisation. Code named ‘Project Praana’, the product is a technology development effort at IISc, started in late March, to address the shortage of medical ventilators in the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

“We are at an advanced stage of discussions with a well-established industrial house in India that is interested in co-developing a medical ventilator product jointly with us using our core technology,” said Duvvuri Subrahmanyam, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at IISc and one of the founders of ‘Project Praana.’

“We’ve already received expressions of interest from multiple parties that are interested in manufacturing, and that is very encouraging,” he added.

The goal is to licence the final product in a “build-to-print” form with all certifications to interested third-party manufacturers.

The other founders of ‘Project Praana’ include IISc faculty members Gaurab Banerjee, T V Prabhakar and Pratikash Panda, Bengaluru-based engineer Manas Pradhan, and retired IISc professor HS Jamadagni. Many volunteers, at IISc and outside, helped at various stages of the project.

The team took just about 35 days to go from the drawing board to a proof-of-concept system, and then a working prototype in another two weeks. The prototype consists of a custom-designed pneumatic system controlled by a microprocessor and uses proprietary algorithms and techniques to blend air and oxygen in the desired ratio. It supports both invasive and non-invasive ventilation.

The IISc team has developed the ventilator at a time when there is a big need for these devices. India recently surpassed the UK in terms of Covid-19 cases to become the fourth worst-hit country in the world. “With the Covid-19 situation continuing to escalate with uncertain timelines, our focus now is to get a product deployed on the ground as soon as we can,” said Subrahmanyam.

In the worst-case scenario, Subrahmanyam estimates that for a population of 125 crore, about 75,000 patients will require critical care with access to invasive ventilation. The requirement for non-invasive ventilation, which can be administered in a hospital ward, or even at home, is probably going to be much higher.

“If this scenario were to play out in the coming months, we hope to meet the demand that it is going to be generated for ventilators,” added Subrahmanyam.

Unlike many low-cost ventilator designs that have mushroomed in the last few months, IISc’s technology is not a “stop-gap” arrangement for Covid-19. The team envisions that its product would have a long-term impact, particularly outside the urban areas in India, where, at present, there is hardly any access to ventilators.

The ventilator uses only components made in India or easily available in the domestic supply chain at a low cost. There is further opportunity for innovation in terms of developing and incorporating advanced artificial intelligence algorithms and making it an Internet of Things device — all of which can be done indigenously.

Experts said building such indigenous products would reduce India's dependence on countries like China for items such as personal protective equipments (PPEs), ventilators, N95 masks and other medical kits. “I believe such innovations can also happen for items like PPEs, N95 masks, and other medical devices as well,” said Subrahmanyam. “Covid-19 has been a rude wake-up call for India from foreign dependence for meeting domestic health care requirements,” he added.



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