A team of engineers led by Konda Vishweshwar Reddy, the former member of parliament and an entrepreneur, has come up with what he calls a global breakthrough to manufacture low-cost ventilators. Called ICo-Vent, it is a coronavirus-specific low-cost ventilator in line with "the minimum clinically acceptable criteria for a rapidly manufacturable ventilator to address the COVID-19 situation". The Indian government, he says, is also in the process of releasing a similar set of specifications.
Reddy's team has prepared the prototypes after getting a concept validation about six weeks ago. Now the testing phase is on to check their reliability and robustness.
"Apart from functionality, reliability and robustness of a ventilator are equally important because it has to run continuously (day and night) for long periods of time (from four days to 14 days). The ability of various parts and components of the ventilator will be put to test during this time," says Reddy, who is also the husband of Sangita Reddy, joint managing director of Apollo Hospitals.
"The testing will be conducted over the next two weeks, following which the manufacturing will start that may take another three to four weeks," he adds.
An expert committee set up by the government, which focusses on augmenting supplies to combat COVID-19, is looking into granting regulatory approvals, he says.
The ventilators are expected to cost Rs 40,000 for the low-end model and about Rs 1.2 lakh for a high-end model - but both with similar accuracy.
An ICU ventilator today costs around Rs 5 lakh. But, according to him, these cannot be compared with the COVID-specific versions because the latter have fewer features than the former but are more than sufficient to treat COVID-19 patients.
Reddy is the managing director of Stephan Design & Engineering, where, he says, ventilators can be manufactured but in limited capacity. "With our limited manufacturing capabilities, we can only make 300 ventilators a month. We are talking to other companies in India and Europe who have shown interest in larger-scale manufacturing."
ICo-Vent is specifically designed for COVID-19 and ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) patients. The original design is conceptually new and the components are freely available in most countries, including India.