17/04/2020 - 15:09

Perth contractor develops locally built ventilator

17/04/2020 - 15:09

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Engineering company Lycopodium has developed an electrically operated ventilator, to be used as emergency backup in the event of a shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perth contractor develops locally built ventilator
The electrical ventilator delivers oxygen without the need of a human operator. Photo: Lycopodium

Engineering company Lycopodium has developed an electrically operated ventilator, to be used as emergency backup in the event of a shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although not from the medical supply industry, the East Perth-based company says it has locally developed an Ambu bag mask ventilator which will not require a piped oxygen supply.

The ventilator delivers oxygen by compressing the Ambu bag mask with a pivoting cam arm, which removes the need for a human operator.

It is based on a concept designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as part of a project in 2010, with the idea the ventilator would be used in underdeveloped countries or as an emergency backup during natural disasters and pandemics in the US.

The Lycopodium ventilator was initiated by company chairman Michael Caratti, who felt inspired after reading a newspaper article written by a doctor working in an isolated aboriginal community in northern Australia.

The doctor had expressed his concern over the lack of ventilators available to his high-risk patients.

“I realised from an engineering point of view it would be relatively easy to use the MIT design to make emergency backup units here locally,” Mr Caratti said on Wednesday.

“My subsequent reading indicated that it may not be just remote communities that will have this problem, depending on the success of the current COVID-19 lockdown.”

Lycopodium jointly developed the ventilator with Welshpool-based ECG Engineering, which is partly owned by the company, and its long-term industry partner Alloytech.

The combined design and fabrication team was supported by specialist medical advisers.

Lycopodium said it had also engaged with various local suppliers on the project.

Managing director Peter De Leo said the cost to produce the units would be borne directly by all parties involved.

He said developing the ventilator was a critical endeavour that may well save lives in the face of COVID-19 going forward.

“I commend (Michael Caratti) for his vision in bringing this initiative to life and finding a way for us to play our small part in serving the broader community in the fight against COVID-19,” Mr De Leo said.

A test unit has been built at ECG and is now ready for trial.

Lycopodium said once it has received Therapeutic Goods Administration approval, the consortium will produce an initial 100 units to be used in Australia if required.

The units can also be sent to support communities where Lycopodium operates in Africa, including Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Lycopodium shares closed up 2.7 per cent to trade at $4.20.

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