The COVID-19 pandemic has mobilized the research and innovation community in many different ways. A major challenge in treatment in critical cases of infection is the availability of ventilators, mechanical breathing machines, which are in high demand globally and are becoming scarce. Sadly, in Italy, healthcare professionals have already had to make difficult decisions in saving lives due to a shortage in medical ventilators. To respond to the shortage, rapid manufacturing is possible, but one thing is missing: a viable design. From March 18th to March 31st took place the Code Life Ventilator Challenge, an initiative of the Montreal General Hospital Foundation, in collaboration with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. The goal of this innovation contest was to design, in only two weeks, a simple, inexpensive, easy-to-use and easy-to-manufacture ventilator to provide life support to COVID-19 patients around the world. The most efficient and effective design will receive a prize of CAD $200,000 and hopefully help save lives across the globe.
More than six hundred teams from 80 countries worked tirelessly on a solution, and one of those teams is from Sherbrooke. This local team developed, assembled and tested the BreatHere ventilator from readily available, abundant, and locally sourced parts in only 8 days. The multidisciplinary team was composed of engineers, medical professionals, professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and was supported by local institutions and businesses. Bishop’s Canada Research Chair Dr. Matthew Peros supplied a 3D printer, while the Undergradute Bishop’s Earth Research Group (UBERG) and Bruno Courtemanche devoted their time, stock, and an additional 3D resin printer. This collaboration combined expertise, equipment, and workspaces from Bishop’s University, Université de Sherbrooke, Cégep de Sherbrooke, ÉlectroMag, RS Conception, Arjo, Énergie Solutions Air and Orixha. With the help of local companies, and hopefully from the government, a production of 1000 units per week could be possible in the near future.
Mid-April, after testing by a committee of experts, the top three designs will be made available everywhere for free download and production. Stay tuned for the results and best of luck to Bruno Courtemanche and his teammates!
For more information on the BreatHere ventilator and the Code Life Ventilator Challenge: