NASA develops ventilator prototype for coronavirus patients in just 37 days


Doctors at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York give a thumbs-up after testing a ventilator prototype developed by NASA’s JPL.


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NASA scientists aren’t limiting themselves to space-related work these days. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California took just 37 days to develop a new high-pressure ventilator tailored for coronavirus patients. The ventilator passed a critical test this week at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NASA said Thursday.

Although JPL normally builds spacecraft, not medical devices, engineers stepped in due to the nation’s limited supply of traditional ventilators, which are needed for COVID-19 patients experiencing severe respiratory distress. 

The ventilator has been named VITAL, for Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally, and can be built faster, more easily and with fewer parts than a traditional ventilator, according to NASA. 

“We have the potential to save human lives, people that we might know, our neighbors, our families,” said Michelle Easter, a mechatronics engineer on the project. “And that intensity … is amazing, it’s amazing.”

Next up, NASA is seeking expedited FDA approval for the device via an emergency-use authorization, a fast-track approval process developed for crisis situations.

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