Low cost emergency ventilator to tackle coronavirus designed by Imperial team


Dr Michael Madekurozwa

Dr Michael Madekurozwa with the system

A low cost, high performance emergency ventilator to help patients with coronavirus has been designed by a team at Imperial College London.

The ventilator, called JamVent, has been designed by a team of bioengineers and medics so that it doesn’t rely on specialist parts, but can perform the demanding tasks necessary for treating patients with COVID-19.

The device could help offer a solution to ventilator shortages worldwide, particularly for health services in developing countries. 

The team have made the design freely available for manufacturers and health services around the world to download to help them in the fight against coronavirus.

The JamVent ventilator

Testing of the prototype has shown that it can perform to MHRA specifications  and can carry out the critical functions of ICU ventilators for COVID-19 patients. 

The team are working with UK-based manufacturers RPD and TestWorks, as well as groups in the USA, Australia and South America, to produce assembly-line prototypes in early May, and will seek approval from regulatory bodies, including the UK's MHRA, and the USA's FDA, for use in clinical settings. 

The project is one of the first to receive funding from Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Fund - which is backed by hundreds of alumni and friends. 

The team is now looking for donors and healthcare providers to take the JamVent ventilator into full-scale production so it can help medics on the frontline as they battle the pandemic. 

Overwhelming global need for ventilators

The project was started by Imperial medic Dr Jakob Mathiszig-Lee, who was treating COVID-19 patients at the Royal Brompton hospital and watching the tragedy unfold around the world and recognised there would be an urgent, overwhelming need for ventilators worldwide. 

He contacted researchers at Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering and the team have worked flat-out since to develop the ventilator design. 

Dr Mathiszig-Lee said: “I followed the outbreak closely as it grew in Wuhan and then Lombardy.

"Many of my colleagues had friends or family working in the region and listening to their stories I knew there would be a global need for ventilators and reached out to colleagues in the Department of Bioengineering. 

"Working in intensive care, treating these patients, I know first hand how difficult they can be to ventilate and it's become increasingly clear to me that simple bag squeezers just aren't up to what's needed.

"The progress we've made is outstanding and we're meeting every standard we've tested against.

"What's needed now is for healthcare systems that have a need to come forward and get in touch and for donors and funders to allow us to get these devices into the hands of the people that need them around the world."

As well as the clinical expertise of Dr Mathiszig-Lee, from Imperial's Department of Surgery and Cancer, the team draws on the bioengineering know-how of Dr Joseph Sherwood, Dr Michael Madekurozwa and Professor Moore Jr, all medical device experts from Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering.

Project lead Dr Joseph Sherwood, from Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, said: “We considered both the MHRA specifications and Jakob’s experience in the clinic when designing JamVent.

"We aimed to produce a device that could perform all of the critical functions of ICU ventilators, using simple components outside of the medical supply chain.

"The resulting design is straightforward to manufacture with low cost components, which should allow us to ramp up production quickly.”

Professor James Moore Jr.
Professor James Moore Jr.

Project manager Professor James Moore Jr. said: “We usually talk about time scales of years to get something into clinical use. This project follows very similar steps, but thanks to the sheer dedication of the team we were able to define and implement the design quickly.”

Co-Technical lead Dr Michael Madekurozwa, highlighted the need for ventilators in the developing world.

“Having grown up in Zimbabwe, where there is no free healthcare, I know that low-cost ventilator technology that can sustain COVID-19 patients will be essential.

"The same is true across much of the world, and we hope that JamVent can make a difference.”

Innovative design

Dr Joseph Sherwood
Dr Joseph Sherwood says optimisation of the system is ongoing 

The JamVent design doesn’t rely on specialised parts and can be built with ‘off-the-shelf’ components from various manufacturers - therefore the parts cost less and long supply-chain bottlenecks can be avoided. 

Its primary components are two pressure transducers, four on/off solenoid valves and a two litre airtight container. The system doesn’t require gas to drive it and utilises only the air and oxygen required by the patient, which is critical due to limitations on gas supplies.

The team have tested a prototype of the ventilator and shown that it can perform to MHRA specifications. It can also carry out the critical functions of ICU ventilators for COVID-19 patients. 

This includes the clinician-preferred Pressure Regulated Volume Controlled mode, the ability to maintain pressure during suction, and a mode to help wean patients off mechanical ventilation  (spontaneous breathing mode).

The absence of a spontaneous mode and inability to deal with suction have been criticisms of basic ventilator designs.

The emergency ventilator design can be downloaded for free - and enquiries can be directed to the team here.



Stephen Johns

Stephen Johns
Communications Division

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 9531
Email: s.johns@imperial.ac.uk

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