The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented time, leaving many people wondering how they can contribute their skills or knowledge to support those on the front lines.
Dr. Cristiano Galbiati is a physics professor at Princeton University and dark matter researcher based in the hard-hit Lombardy region in northern Italy. He proposed the idea of creating a simple ventilator design that could be made quickly with off-the-shelf parts to help ease the shortage of life saving equipment. The Mechanical Ventilator Milano (MVM) design centres around the gas handling and control systems found in dark matter experiments combined with the 1961 Manley ventilator to produce a simple design. MVM uses readily available materials, eliminating supply chain limitations for more complex designs. It is open-source and can be accessed and modified by nations around the world in an effort to rapidly produce ventilators to address the immediate needs.
The North American initiative is led by Nobel Laureate Dr. Art McDonald, who alongside Galbiati, is a part of the Global Argon Dark Matter Collaboration. McDonald recruited Canadian and American labs to work on a local ventilator design, including SNOLAB, TRIUMF, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and Fermilab. Dark matter experiments, like DEAP-3600 at SNOLAB, require extremely precise and consistent control of concentration, pressure, temperature, and humidity, the same requirements needed in medicine for mechanical ventilators.
Italy has completed their first prototype and shipped five copies to labs in Canada and the United States. The North American design is in the prototyping phase to be tested by Health Canada, the US Air Force, and the US Food and Drug Administration prior to moving into the manufacturing stage. In addition to the regulatory bodies, the collaboration is in consultation with health care professionals on the front lines to address their needs for the ventilator design. Representatives in Italy, Canada, and the USA are working in parallel to source manufacturers, with large scale production likely to begin in the coming weeks.
Find out more about the Mechanical Ventilator Milano collaboration at the MVM project website.