UPDATE : Tuesday, August 4, 2020
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‘Cheap ventilators long been available in Korea’
  • By Kim Yoon-mi
  • Published 2020.04.03 15:35
  • Updated 2020.04.05 14:49
  • comments 2

While the globe is suffering from a shortage of ventilators amid the new coronavirus pandemic, a Korean research team said it developed ventilators for emergency use in 2016, which are about 20 times cheaper than existing ones.

The Korean researchers’ announcement came after a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently said they would reveal a design online on how to manufacture a ventilator at around $100, compared with about $30,000 to make an existing device.

The researchers at Gangnam Severance Hospital said, however, such cheap ventilators for emergency use had long been available here.

A researcher demonstrates how an affordable ventilator for emergency use, developed by a team at Gangnam Severance Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center, works. (Credit: Gangnam Severance Hospital)

The research team led by Kang Seong-woong, a professor at Gangnam Severance Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center, said it would like to share the knowledge of how to make “makeshift ventilators” with medical institutions and countries all over the world.

Their 2016 version of the simple ventilator uses an Ambu bag, the hand-held bag-valve resuscitator used for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), connected to mechanical devices such as a motor and a timer. The manufacturing cost stood at between 100,000 won ($81) and 200,000 won, the researchers said.

“By connecting simple mechanical devices to the Ambu bag, you can assist breathing for a long time without manual work,” Kang said. “Amid the COVID-19 outbreak marked by the severe supply bottleneck of ventilators, this could replace the minimal function of ventilators with a low cost and simple manufacturing.”

Professor Kang said he initially designed the makeshift ventilator to help patients with neuromuscular disease (NMD) in case they cannot use a standard ventilator due to a financial problem. Progressive NMD makes the entire muscles, including those in the lungs powerless. A ventilator is a must in treating progressive NMD. Still, patients in developing countries find it difficult to get access to expensive ventilators.

Kang said his team was looking for fundraising opportunities and collaborations with non-governmental organizations to distribute affordable ventilators more widely.


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