Vecna Robotics is part of the growing number of companies combating the shortage of ventilators caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Waltham, Mass.-based Vecna Robotics, along with sister companies VecnaCares and Vecna Healthcare, partnered with MIT CSAIL, Toyota Research Institute, 10XBeta and others to develop an automated manual resuscitator called Ventiv.
Ventiv can be used in conjunction with Ambu bags or all other self-inflating bags available off the shelf. Ventiv provides continuous pressure ventilation by automating the compression and relaxation of manual bags. Ambu bags, generically known as manual resuscitators or “self-inflating bags,” are hand-held devices used to provide positive pressure ventilation to patients who are not breathing adequately. Manual resuscitators are commonly found in ambulances and on crash carts in healthcare environments.
However, they require a medical professional to be present and constantly applying compression to provide the patient with the right amount of breath. To alleviate the medical professional from providing manual breathing support, Ventiv is designed to hold a manual resuscitator and provide a steady stream of breathing assistance to the patient. The clinician uses an analog control module to set how frequently to compress the bag, and the volume that should be deployed with each breath for hands-free operation.
The Ventiv program has been designed to provide hospitals and health systems a low- to no-cost automatic ventilator for emergency overflow. The price is currently set at a sliding scale of $0-$250.
“It’s inspiring to see how the team at MIT and our partners have pulled together to create an optimized design. Designers, business owners, and regular people are asking how can I help? We have mobilized as a community to create an open project for everyone to contribute and make the difference,” said Vecna Healthcare Founder and CEO Deborah Theobald. “We are guiding them as quickly as possible to the production line and mass distribution.”
Vecna Healthcare holds the the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA that allows it to manufacture and distribute product with an accelerated certification process. Vecna Robotics is coordinating manufacturing groups that have come forward to offer priority status in their queues and access to suppliers for a truly low cost option for meeting the need for ventilators with the goal to manufacture in the tens of thousands. VecnaCares is reaching out to first world hospitals and treatment centers while also responding to RFPs for healthcare providers Africa and low resource places around the world. VecnaCares will use OpenMRS and CliniPAK in those instances to improve data and reporting on both the individual and aggregate level.
Once units are out in the field, Vecna Healthcare will continue to support them and gather data and feedback that can go back to the community and contribute towards a full 510K status with the FDA.
Theobald said the short-term goal is to deliver a product that alleviates healthcare team stress and patient suffering.
“That is where we are focused through the end of May when all the US states are forecasted to have peaked. We anticipate a lot of lessons learned through that process. And then we hope that those lessons will be helpful to other parts of the world who are heading into winter with COVID-19 and live with much lighter safety nets around them,” said Theobald. “We need to be ready, and whatever lessons we can share with other people who are working with the open source design or want to tap into the benefits of global supply chains or leverage our EUA, my goal is to make that available.”
Vecna Robotics isn’t the only Massachusetts-based robotics company combating the ventilator shortage. Boston robotics startups FloraBot and Watertower Robotics started The Ventilator Project, a non-profit developing a low-cost ventilator specifically for COVID-19 patients. One ventilator costs about $40,000, according to estimates. Tyler Mantel, Co-founder of The Ventilator Project, told The Robot Report his team is rapidly prototyping a ventilator that will cost between $1,000-$2,000.