FDA approves low-cost ventilator invented by U of M researchers

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the production of a low-cost ventilator that University of Minnesota researchers and an alumnus developed, the university announced in a news release on Wednesday.

With FDA authorization, the design for the ventilator, named Coventor, can move forward with production and distribution to health care systems. Coventor was conceived as a backup alternative for physicians to use when treating coronavirus patients, according to the release.

Ventilators have been in high demand across the world to stabilize patients who have critically low blood oxygen levels in serious cases of COVID-19. Previously, they were widely used for patients with pneumonia and acute respiratory distress.

U of M doctors make ventilators to combat shortage during COVID-19 pandemic

Stephen Richardson—a cardiac anesthesiology fellow in the U of M Medical School—developed a design with a research team, and Aaron Tucker in the College for Science and Engineering developed the prototype.

The prototype for Coventor was made using "off-the-shelf" components and is compact enough to fit on a desktop. It’s the first ventilator of its kind and features a slider-crank mechanism that allows medical professionals to control how much oxygen is being administered to patients, according to the release.

“Because of its ease, simplicity and cost, we believe this concept can be scaled in many different designs,” said Tucker, a lab supervisor at the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center.

Coventor’s design will be made open source, which will allow other manufacturers around the world to begin regulatory and production processes.

“This allows patients who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to survive, to survive,” Richardson said. “The Coventor gives people a chance and that is what this is all about. Making the ventilator as fast as possible, pushing it to people everywhere.”

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