Ventilator boost to fight coronavirus




Exclusive: A team of Australian scientists has created a groundbreaking "field ventilator" to help combat coronavirus in remote regions of Australia and overseas where hospital emergency resources are limited.

And critically they are going into production in Australia and not China meaning no issues with supply lines and can be directly dispatched from here to those most in need including to allies in the Pacific with challenged health care systems.

A consortium of leading doctors, engineers and medical researchers from Melbourne and South Australia had already teamed up as part of the Australian Lung Health Initiative to develop the world's first lung function scanner.


4Dx founder and biomedical engineer Professor Andreas Fouras. Picture: Roy VanDerVegt
4Dx founder and biomedical engineer Professor Andreas Fouras. Picture: Roy VanDerVegt

But the corona pandemic prompted the team to fast-track the development of a low-cost ventilator that does not need a hospital or ICU trained staff to operate and can save lives.

Melbourne-based medical tech group 4Dx founder and biomedical engineer Andreas Fouras developed the device initially as a research tool but COVID-19 and fears of a global shortage of ventilators prompted a rethink.

Together with the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMR), the University of Adelaide as well as independent peer reviews and testing, the product is now ready for use.


The potentially lifesaving field ventilator. Picture: Supplied
The potentially lifesaving field ventilator. Picture: Supplied

"I'm actually sincerely hoping no-one uses it which is the funny thing to say about putting so much time and effort into it," Professor Fouras told News Corp Australia of the device.

"But it has become clear no-one could build them fast enough or cheap enough to supply in large numbers to places that are not as fortunate as the great hospitals we have in Australia."

He said there was nothing else on the market like it with ventilators tending to fall into two categories, either emergency or more sophisticated instruments in a western hospital ICU.

The field ventilators cost $2000 as opposed to $16,000 for ICU models.

Professor Fouras said the kit, to be used as a 'lung first-aid' piece of equipment, was critical given the perceived shortage of hospital and ICU beds particularly in the Pacific Islands during the COVID-19 emergency.

He said the device had been made simple for easy use and minimal training.

"We've made sure the device is really not only unbreakable but nice and simple to use, you turn it on, a couple of settings and if you don't want to touch those even then it's good to go, turn it on and its good to go hopefully to save lives," he said.

It was Professor Fouras and his med tech firm that last month developed a way to fast-track coronavirus diagnosis, reducing the turnaround time from the current 48-hours to three hours.

Originally published as Ventilator boost to fight coronavirus