Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

An interdisciplinary team of engineers and medics is addressing ways to increase the UK’s capacity for ventilator manufacture.

Prototype ventilator

Engineers, anaesthetists and surgeons from the University of Oxford and King’s College London are building and testing prototypes that can be manufactured using techniques and tools available in well-equipped university and small and medium enterprise (SME) workshops.

The team, led by Oxford Professors Andrew Farmery, Mark Thompson and Alfonso Castrejon-Pita and 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.

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.’ - Professor Andrew Farmery

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 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, says: ‘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, says: ‘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 support 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.’

Project website

Similar stories

New machine learning system developed to identify deteriorating patients in hospital

Anaesthetics Research

Researchers have developed a machine learning algorithm that could improve clinicians’ ability to identify hospitalised patients who need intensive care.

Accidental awareness in obstetric surgery under general anaesthesia more frequent than expected

Anaesthetics Research

The largest ever study of awareness during obstetric general anaesthesia shows around 1 in 250 women may be affected, and some may experience long-term psychological harm.

Developing diagnostics for COVID-19

Clinical Neurology Coronavirus Research

Associate Professor Sarosh Irani, who heads up our Autoimmune Neurology Group, has been funded by Mologic to help develop diagnostics for COVID-19.

COVID-19 and Guillain-Barré syndrome

Clinical Neurology Coronavirus Research

Multiple recent case reports have suggested a link between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an acute, disabling, immune-mediated disorder of the peripheral nervous system. It is currently unclear whether this simply represents a chance association.

Low-cost ventilator wins at E&T Innovation Awards

Anaesthetics Award Coronavirus

The OxVent is a rapidly deployable and scalable low-cost mechanical ventilator specially designed for COVID-19, which has now been recognised as one of the best innovations of the year by the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Viruses shown to evolve as a result of different immune responses in different ethnic populations

Clinical Neurology Coronavirus Research

New research into the HIV-1 virus has shed light on an important factor in the evolution of viruses, which is likely also to affect SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19). This new insight could have important implications for vaccine development.