Windsor group lands $50K grant to develop low-cost ventilator

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


A University of Windsor associate engineering professor is leading a local team with a concept for a low-cost ventilator with only two moving parts.

It’s a potential innovation that could help the world breathe easier during this COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea has attracted a $50,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alliance as part of its mandate to back COVID-19-related projects.

“Our aim isn’t to develop this and sell it to somebody and get rich,” associate professor Jeff Defoe said.

“The idea is to develop the process of how you’d make this product, to make it as easy to source parts as possible. Then to make the design openly available so that anyone in the world can manufacture it.”

Defoe said Dr. Mason Leschyna came up with the idea for the new ventilator concept and he’s partnered with the physician to create schematic drawings.

Leschyna, a Belle River District High School graduate, holds degrees in both medicine and engineering science. He also founded the hardware and software company Augmented Physician Technologies in 2018.

Also partnering in the project is Biafore Associates Inc., which will help the group navigate the maze of Health Canada regulations.

Maya HTT will provide the software support while Grantek Inc. will design the user interface to control its operation.

Defoe credits the WE Spark Health Institute for connecting him with the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation COVID-19 Taskforce’s Ventilator Group to make the linkage with Leschyna that started things rolling.

Defoe said the group sees two main uses for the new ventilator design.

It will allow for ample capacity in the event of repeat waves of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

It’s expected low cost of around $500 will also make ventilators more affordable for lower-income nations that have basic hospital structures in place.

“Because we’ll be using easily sourced materials and virtually no moving parts, the cost will be about one-tenth of ventilators now,” Defoe said.

“The only thing it has is a couple of control valves that are moving parts. It has a single-board computer for control.

“It’s a very simple design.”

The simplicity of the design will also allow countries to source all the parts from within their borders.

“It helps with the cost, but most importantly it helps support against the supply chain fragility we’ve seen in the last six months,” said Defoe, who added the project will get rolling in earnest mid-month now that funding has been secured.

The elimination of moving parts is possible because the design doesn’t produce it’s own pressurized air or oxygen supply.

“It relies on the fact that pretty much in every hospital everywhere you have pressurized lines for air and oxygen,” Defoe said. “We use those as the supply to the system.

“It’s meant to be used in a hospital setting, but it allows for use in rooms that previously wouldn’t have been considered ICU or ventilator-equipped rooms. Essentially, you need a power supply and these pressurized air lines.”

Defoe said the plan is for the design to be ready for testing in April or May.

At that time, doctors from the Windsor Regional Hospital have volunteered to join in to ensure all the performance parameters and safety requirements are met.

Testing will be done using flow simulation tools before a prototype is constructed. The prototype will then be tested on a dual adult test lung, which can replicate adult pulmonary mechanics and lung function.

Defoe said the University of Windsor has agreed to split the costs of the purchase of the test lung from Michigan Instruments with the guarantee that other researchers will have access to the device after the project is completed.