Re-design of Winnipeg Ventilator to fight COVID-19
April 8, 2020
WINNIPEG – Canada’s advanced manufacturing supercluster – called NGen and based in Hamilton, Ont. – has selected a ventilator created by Winnipeg’s Cerebra Health Inc., as a device to be further developed for use combatting the COVID-19 epidemic in Canada.
The Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster (NGen) is dedicating $50 million to get companies up to speed on producing the medical equipment needed to fight COVID-19 in Canada, including virus screening kits, gloves and gowns, cleaning equipment and ventilators.
Cerebra’s Winnipeg Ventilator is now being re-designed for use in the COVID-19 pandemic, in alliance with companies across Canada. The design work is being led by Starfish Medical, a Victoria company that specializes in the design of medical equipment.
The Winnipeg Ventilator was designed and built 40 years ago by Dr. Magdy Younes (pictured), who was one of the founders of Cerebra.
Dr. Younes is a world-renowned respiratory specialist and innovator. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg as well as a Senior Scholar in its Faculty of Medicine. He established the sleep laboratory at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg in 1991 and was its director until he retired from active practice.
Robbie MacLeod, NGen’s director of strategic partnerships and programs, told the Winnipeg Free Press, “The objective of this project is the rapid definition and open source delivery … for a Health Canada-approved, low cost, and easy-to-operate ventilator design. The Winnipeg Ventilator design is a leading contender for production launch in Canada.”
Although the design has been around for a long time – the technology was licensed and used for many years in thousands of commercially manufactured ventilators by Puritan Bennett – it is being redesigned in a stripped-down, simplified form but with all the functionality of an intensive-care-unit ventilator.
One of the crucial features of the design is that it can be made using off-the-shelf components, something that Younes said was accomplished with the help of his original engineer partner.
Dr. Younes is recognized around the world as a leading expert in the field. Over the years, royalties from Puritan Bennett, which was acquired by Medtronic, generated millions of dollars in revenue for the University of Manitoba (and for Younes).
Its patent recently expired and although anyone could legally reverse-engineer the technology, the expertise of Younes and Cerebra will be crucial to redesign the device for the requirements of the pandemic environment.
Among other things, it does not rely on compressed air to operate, making the design easier to use in remote locations and field hospitals.