NASA designs coronavirus-specific ventilator in 37 days

NASA engineers have developed a “high-pressure” ventilator prototype, designed specifically to help coronavirus patients, the agency confirmed.

VITAL, or Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally, was tested at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City on a “high-fidelity human patient simulator” after only 37 days in development, NASA said in a statement released Thursday.

>> Coronavirus checklist: 100-plus disinfectants that may kill coronavirus on surfaces

The agency is seeking expedited approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through an emergency use authorization, CNN reported.

“The team feels confident that the VITAL ventilator will be able to safely ventilate patients suffering from COVID-19, both here in the United States and throughout the world,” Matthew Levin, a director at the school, told The Hill.

>> Coronavirus symptoms: What you need to know

The device is designed to “free up the nation’s limited supply of traditional ventilators, so they may be used on patients with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms,” according to NASA.

The machine is not intended to replace current ventilators, NASA said in a subsequent Friday statement, noting that VITAL is designed to last as many as four months and is “specifically tailored” to treat novel coronavirus patients.

For instance, VITAL is designed to offer more oxygen at higher pressures than traditional models because many of the most acute patients require that specified level of care, CNN reported.

"Intensive care units are seeing COVID-19 patients who require highly dynamic ventilators," Dr. J.D. Polk, NASA's chief health and medical officer, said in a statement, adding, "The intention with VITAL is to decrease the likelihood patients will get to that advanced stage of the disease and require more advanced ventilator assistance."

>> Coronavirus: Know the facts directly from the CDC

VITAL, developed by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, also use fewer parts than typical ventilators, most of which are available in current supply chains, meaning it can be built more quickly, CNN reported.

“We specialize in spacecraft, not medical-device manufacturing,” JPL Director Michael Watkins said in a statement, adding, “But excellent engineering, rigorous testing and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties. When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise and drive.”

>> Coronavirus: Can the government make you stay home if you are sick?