LOS ANGELES - A small group of engineers and healthcare workers in California are creating emergency ventilators using a relic from the U.S. Army in the 1960s.
The members of the team found each other on a crowd sharing open forum about COVID-19. One of the members found a 1965 ventilator with no moving parts at a wartime relic museum in the Midwest. The museum agreed to ship it to the Bay Area, and Chris Jung, a product designer who works out of his garage lab in Newbury Park, joined the team to reverse engineer the product.
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"I joined this team of engineers and it's nothing but altruism. Everyone's pushing for the same goal," said Jung.
The ventilator is made of two pieces of plastic, aluminum or any other sturdy material, and only requires an air supply like an oxygen tank and a mask. According to the team, it was likely designed for treating multiple war-related casualties like chemical warfare.
"It was invented by the Army. It was tested by them thoroughly but that was in the 60s and we want to make sure that it's applicable to 2020 treatment standards," said Jung.
Jung is passionate about the project that he believes could potentially save hundreds of lives.
"My friends that are physicians told me that they saw that the worst-case scenario if there was a shortage of ventilators, would be family members literally manually resuscitating their loved ones and the shock and trauma from that type of experience, you really can't afford to do that. The most important thing is that this sees the light of day, and it sees the ability to get out there and save patients," said Jung.
Other companies like Elon Musk and General Motors are mass-producing ventilators to help with the nationwide shortage, but the ventilator from the 1960s is less expensive and can be made with a 3D printer.
"It's just fascinating. They came up with it in the 60s and then shortly after the electronics revolution hit and this type of product was pretty much shelved. This would serve other markets internationally as well so we're working with a team of medical disaster experts as well to plan and get this sent out to the world," said Jung.
Jung said the FDA is fast-tracking medical device approvals due to the coronavirus pandemic. The team is using Army patents and their own patents. They're also following regulatory paths to ensure the device's safety for patients and providers. He said the Interstate Disaster Medical Coalition is helping the team with the rollout at the medical practitioner level, and they hope to have the ventilators deployed "within weeks."