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News > OB News > OB leads team to create life-saving device against COVID-19

OB leads team to create life-saving device against COVID-19

5 Jan 2021
OB News

Jon Cooke (OB 2001-08) led a team at Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP) in 2020 on an innovative project to 'split' a medical ventilator, so that it can save the life of two patients at the same time. 

The double ventilator support device was initially created in a tight timeframe last March, when the world started to realise the gravity of COVID-19. Project leader and OB Jon Cooke said, “At the time, there were fears that Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge could not cope with the high numbers of seriously ill COVID-19 patients they might face, so we worked round the clock to turn the idea into reality.”

The device allows one ventilator to serve two patients safely, even if they have differing needs for breathing support. It was tested last year and now looks set to become a key piece of emergency equipment in pandemics and other crises, such as war and mass shootings, with all parts of the device being easily sourced and swiftly changed or replaced. 

The project was initiated by the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), University of Cambridge, in response to a call for help from Royal Papworth Hospital anaesthetists. Previous ventilator-splitting designs did not take into account the differing needs of the two patients in terms of lung capacity and breathing needs. “They were so rudimentary they ran the risk of doing serious damage to the patients’ lungs,” said Jon.

When asked how he found the project, Jon said, “It was a hugely positive experience to support the IfM team and work with Royal Papworth to deliver a functioning and safe design in such a short space of time. The combination of the deep regulatory knowledge and robust design techniques of my team along with the great conceptual and experimental work conducted by the IfM made for a truly rapid development process. I’m extremely proud of what we achieved together in this remarkable cooperative project. Of course, we hope that such emergency use of ventilators will be a rare occurrence in the future, but if such a situation arises, this system could be a lifesaver.”

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