January 25, 2022

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Eight US Manufacturers Selected to Make NASA COVID-19 Ventilator

12 min read

A host of international companies will be evaluated next for the free license granted by Caltech.


UPDATED on June 4, 2020: The FDA has awarded a second ventilator Emergency Use Authorization for a modified design of VITALthat uses a compressor to generate pressurized air. This makes it ideal for a wider range of medical locations, including field hospitals. A separate version of VITAL received a ventilator Emergency Use Authorization on April 30; this version, which relies on a pneumatic design, is better suited to traditional hospitals, where pressurized air is more readily available.

After receiving more than 100 applications, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California has selected eight U.S. manufacturers to make a new ventilator tailored for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.

The prototype, which was created by JPL engineers in just 37 days, received an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on April 30.

Called VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), the high-pressure ventilator was designed to use one-seventh the parts of a traditional ventilator, relying on parts already available in supply chains. It offers a simpler, more affordable option for treating critical patients while freeing up traditional ventilators for those with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms. Its flexible design means it also can be modified for use in field hospitals.

The Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships at Caltech, which owns the patents and software for VITAL, is offering a free license for the device. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

The U.S. companies selected for licenses are:

  • Vacumed, a division of Vacumetrics, Inc. in Ventura, California
  • Stark Industries, LLC in Columbus, Ohio
  • MVent, LLC, a division of Minnetronix Medical, in St. Paul, Minnesota
  • iButtonLink, LLC in Whitewater, Wisconsin
  • Evo Design, LLC in Watertown, Connecticut
  • DesignPlex Biomedical, LLC in Fort Worth, Texas
  • ATRON Group LLC in Dallas
  • Pro-Dex, Inc. in Irvine, California

“The VITAL team is very excited to see their technology licensed,” said Leon Alkalai, manager of the JPL Office of Strategic Partnerships and a member of the VITAL leadership team. “Our hope is to have this technology reach across the world and provide an additional source of solutions to deal with the on-going COVID-19 crisis.”

JPL now is evaluating international manufacturers from countries including Brazil, Mexico, India and Malaysia. A full list of approved manufacturers is available here.

VITAL was developed with input from doctors and medical device manufacturers. A prototype of the JPL device was successfully tested by the Human Simulation Lab in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Mount Sinai on April 23.

A modified design, which uses compressed air and can be deployed by a greater range of hospitals, was recently tested at the UCLA Simulation Center in Los Angeles. A high-fidelity lung simulator tested almost 20 different ventilator settings, representing a number of scenarios that could be seen in critically ill patients in an intensive care unit.

“VITAL performed well in simulation testing with both precise and reproducible results,” said Dr. Tisha Wang, clinical chief of the UCLA Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. “In addition, the setup and operation of the ventilator was quick and user-friendly. The UCLA team commends JPL for actively contributing to the COVID-19 response and successfully addressing one of the key medical needs in the sickest group of patients.”

The compressed-air design also has been submitted to the FDA for a ventilator Emergency Use Authorization and is currently under review.

For more information about NASA’s work in fighting COVID-19, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/coronavirus

News Media Contact

Bettina Inclán / Matthew Rydin / Karen Northon
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1600 / 202-603-7522 / 202-358-1540
bettina.inclan@nasa.gov / matthew.m.rydin@nasa.gov / karen.northon@nasa.gov

Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-393-2433
andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

2020-101

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For accurate COVID-19 contact tracing using traditional methods, public health experts have estimated that the U.S. would require hundreds of thousands of trained contact tracers because of the large number of infections. Proximity tracing apps can expedite and automate identification and notification of the contacts, reducing this need. Faster response. Proximity tracing apps could slow the spread of disease more effectively because they can identify and notify contacts as soon as a user reports they are infected. More complete identification of contacts. Proximity tracing apps, unlike traditional contact tracing, do not require users to recall or be acquainted with people they have recently encountered. Challenges Technology. Technological limitations may lead to missed contacts or false identification of contacts. For example, GPS-based apps may not identify precise locations, and Bluetooth apps may ignore barriers preventing exposure, such as walls or protective equipment. In addition, apps may overlook exposure if two people were not in close enough proximity long enough for it to count as a contact. Adoption. Lower adoption rates make the apps less effective. In the U.S., some states may choose not to use proximity tracing apps. In addition, the public may hesitate to opt in because of concerns about privacy and uncertainty as to how the data may be used. Recent scams using fake contact tracing to steal information may also erode trust in the apps. Interoperability. Divergent app designs may lead to the inability to exchange data between apps, states, and countries, which could be a problem as travel restrictions are relaxed. Access. Proximity tracing apps require regular access to smartphones and knowledge about how to install and use apps. Some vulnerable populations, including seniors, are less likely to own smartphones and use apps, possibly affecting adoption. Policy Context and Questions Although proximity tracing apps are relatively new, they have the potential to help slow disease transmission. But policymakers will need to consider how great the benefits are likely to be, given the challenges. If policymakers decide to use proximity tracing apps, they will need to integrate them into the larger public health response and consider the following questions, among others: What steps can policymakers take to build public trust and encourage communities to support and use proximity tracing apps, and mitigate lack of adoption by some populations? What legal, procedural, privacy, security, and technical safeguards could protect data collected through proximity tracing apps? What can policymakers do to improve coordination of contact tracing efforts across local, state, and international jurisdictions? What can policymakers do to expedite testing and communication of test results to maximize the benefits of proximity tracing apps? What can policymakers do to ensure that contact identification is accurate and that its criteria are based on scientific evidence? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.
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