Coronavirus: Israeli researchers design low-cost open-source ventilator

“AmboVent” is a device inspired by the bag-valve mask ventilators that paramedics use when they’re manually ventilating patients in an ambulance.

AmboVent ventilator (photo credit: COURTESY MDA)
AmboVent ventilator
(photo credit: COURTESY MDA)
A group of Israeli researchers and experts from a variety of companies, governmental organizations and non-profits have partnered to create a low-cost ventilator whose blueprints, design and codes are completely open-source and that has the potential to save millions of lives as the coronavirus crisis continues to sweep through the world.
Dr. Eitan Eliram, the project coordinator of the initiative, told The Jerusalem Post that in the days since the material has been made available online, over 30,000 people have accessed the website and over 100 groups of experts from all over the world – including Iran, Egypt, South Africa, Guatemala, Italy and the United States – are already working to build up their first prototypes.
“We are not talking about a website for the general public, we are talking about engineers and other experts, and we know the groups working on it because they are in touch with us via WhatsApp and emails, to ask questions and understand how to proceed,” he said.
Called “AmboVent,” the device is inspired by the bag-valve mask ventilators used by paramedics when they’re manually ventilating patients in an ambulance, but it also offers controls for respiration rate, volume, and maximum peak pressure. Organizations involved include the Magen David Adom, Israeli Air Force 108 Electronics Depot; physicians from Hadassah and Tel Aviv Sourasky medical centers; Microsoft; Rafael, an Israeli defense contractor; Israeli Aerospace Industries; and mentors and students from FIRST Israel, a student robotics organization.
A key feature of the project is that not only the technology is open-source, but its components can be easily built with limited tools and parts, for example 3D printers and car pieces, making the production much more accessible even in less developed countries.
“We kept the design and every aspect of it very simple so it would be as easy as possible to replicate from everywhere,” he said.
MDA paramedic and robotics technician Yuval Eran, who was in charge of the medical specifications and advisory for the device, is now instructing international panels on how the device is constructed whilst overseeing regulatory compliance for the device.
Ventilators are one of the crucial tools to limit the potentially deadly consequences of the coronavirus. The number of deaths for countries which have experienced a shortage of them compared to the cases – such as Italy and Spain – have been dramatic, and nations all over the world are rushing to acquire all the available supplies at any cost.
Eliram pointed out that AmboVent will have a cost per piece around $500 to $800, when the cheapest ventilators available on the market before the emergency started cost around $6,000. Currently, it is very hard to find anything for less than $30,000 or 40,000.
Some ventilators are being quickly built and used for areas where no other option is available – Eliram mentioned a group working on them in a location in Alaska with no local hospital and where patients have to be kept alive while they wait for the helicopter to arrive for them.
However, even if several medical experts have already backed the project and requests are pouring in from all over the world – both from desperate health centers lacking ventilators and from manufactures interested in producing them – the device has not been approved by health regulators yet.
“We are a 19-day-old organization and we are planning to incorporate as a non-profit soon. All we want to do is to help others build these machines. We have tried to follow the guidelines but we found out that sometimes regulators don’t know exactly how these devices work,” the expert told the Post.
“This is our next challenge, we have set up a task force to address regulators all over the world. We have already built several prototypes and we will soon demonstrate how it works with the help of a doctor and an engineer online, so that the ventilators can be approved and the industrial production can start,” Eliram said.
He added that it might take a few weeks to get the approvals and his team will not produce the ventilators “until we receive these approvals and until we are 100% sure that everything is safe.”
The prototype is currently undergoing tests at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem.
“We are praying that no one will need our ventilators, but it looks like the need is going to explode if we consider the numbers of ventilators needed now across nations. This is not even an Israeli project any more; it’s an international open-source community, working together, to bring health to the world,” Eliram said.
For further information about AmboVent, contact [email protected]