The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new high-pressure ventilator developed by NASA to treat coronavirus or COVID-19 patients. The space agency is offering the designs for licensing on a royalty-free basis during the time of the pandemic, hoping to increase the availability of life-saving medical devices.
In a statement, NASA said its VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally) was approved for use under the FDA’s March 24 ventilator Emergency Use Authorization.
VITAL was developed by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory or JPL in Southern California. VITAL, like all ventilators, requires patients to be sedated and have an oxygen tube inserted into their airway to breathe.
The Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships at Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA, is offering a free license for VITAL. It is also seeking manufacturers for the device from commercial medical industry.
NASA said the ventilator can be built faster and maintained more easily than a traditional ventilator. It is composed of fewer parts, many of which are currently available to potential manufacturers through existing supply chains.
With its flexible design, the ventilator can be modified for use in field hospitals being set up in convention centers, hotels and other high-capacity facilities across the world.
The new device will last three or four months, and wouldn’t replace current hospital ventilators that can last years.
Amid the worsening Covid-19 spread, various U.S. car makers recently started manufacturing ventilators using their infrastructure. In mid-April, General Motors said it was preparing to deliver its first batch of ventilators to the U.S. for the treatment of patients with Covid-19. Ford is working with GE Healthcare to produce 50,000 ventilators in Michigan. Tesla also is reported to be producing ventilators at its Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York.
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