Engineers and medics from University of Oxford and King’s College London are building and testing prototypes for rapidly-deployable ventilators for use on COVID-19 patients. 

OxVent is a multidisciplinary team of engineers, anaesthetists and surgeons at Oxford and King’s who are building and testing prototypes for such ventilators. The aim is that the ventilators can be built with tools readily available in well-equipped university and small and medium enterprise (SME) workshops.

The ventilators can then be distributed to nearby hospitals quickly, in response to the UK government’s calls to increase the country’s ventilator manufacturing capacity due to COVID-19. 

The team is led by Oxford Professors Andrew Farmery, Prof Mark Thompson and Prof Alfonso Castrejon-Pita (all of Wadham College), King’s College London’s Dr Federico Formenti

The team are designing a ventilator which is both safe to use and quick to produce. The design aims to exploit off-the-shelf components and equipment which are readily available in universities, SME workshops and industry. This will mean ventilators can be assembled close to their local NHS services and distributed locally according to demand. This is intended to reduce pressure on NHS distribution.

On 20th March, OxVent released video footage of a prototype ventilator showing exhalation and inhalation. The team have been working intensely for 2 weeks. King’s College London have offered the use of their workshops to manufacture/3D print bespoke components, and researchers are hoping to have a workable prototype which would satisfy MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) within weeks. 

From the team: 

  • Professor Mark Thompson, leader of Oxford Mechanobiology says: ‘This extraordinary situation demands an extraordinary response and we are pulling all the talents together in an exceptional team combining decades of experience translating research into the clinic, brilliant innovators, and highly skilled technicians.’
  • Professor Andrew Farmery, Head of the Nuffield Division of Anaesthetics and of the Respiratory Physiology and Bioengineering Group, says: ‘Ordinarily, to develop a medical device such as this would be a huge task, and would take years.  We have designed a simple and robust ventilator which will serve the specific task of managing the very sickest patients during this crisis. By pooling available expertise from inside and outside the University, and making the design freely available to local manufacturers, we are pleased to be able to respond to this challenge so quickly.’
  • Dr Federico Formenti, Senior Lecturer in Human Physiology at King’s says: ‘Thinking beyond the current pandemic, we are also aiming to share the know-how and refinement of this relatively inexpensive approach with other countries.’

Lois Heslop

Lois Heslop is the co-founder of The Oxford Blue and was Editor-in-Chief for HT20 and TT20. She is in her second year studying Physics at Lady Margaret Hall, and hails from South London. Her other interests include classical music and opera, and she is currently a choral scholar.