Ventilators are critical in the fight against the respiratory disease the world over as the machine helps patients to pump the oxygen-rich air into lungs and breathe out carbon dioxide. 

But in Africa ventilators are scarce as there are less than 2 000 functional ventilators in public health services in 41 African countries as of April 2020, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

For the African countries that are trying to procure ventilators the prices are so high that it is way beyond their reach. Prices of modern ventilators have soared to between $20 000 and $45  000 per unit due to a surge in demand.

Montreal General Hospital Foundation, McGill University and the leading crowdsourcing platform for global problem-solving HeroX through their Made for All challenge launched on Tuesday is facilitating the production of cheap ventilator designs which will directly benefit Africa and other developing nations in their fight against the global pandemic, Coronavirus.

This is the second phase of the Code Life Ventilator challenge after the first had over 530 participants sign up of which 20 were from African countries.

“The first Challenge yielded three excellent candidate designs with very different manufacturing trajectories. The goal in this second challenge is to develop those designs to become actual safe devices that can be implemented in hospitals around the world,” Dr. Reza Farivar, a Canada research chair in Integrative Neuroscience at McGill University, told Biztech Africa.

“To do that, the devices need to be optimized for manufacturing, and they need to obtain regulatory (United States Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada) approval. We are calling on the global solvers (including innovators from Africa) to optimize the designs to make an affordable ventilator.”

In Africa Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 11 000 people while infecting over 700 000 people, according to WHO.

Farivar said these affordable ventilators are being designed to supply developing countries, but are perfectly suited for developed countries as well.

Farivar said the Coronavirus pandemic has revealed the massive disparity in the availability of ventilators and the expertise to operate them-low and middle-income countries have massively fewer ventilators and many regions lack access to expertise to use them in case of need.

“Catalyzing a low-cost, safe device will address this important shortcoming-by bringing teams of experts in manufacturing, device safety, industrial design, technical writers, and many other experts that contribute to make safe medical devices world-wide,” Farivar said.

Through this challenge Farivar hopes the innovators will come up with a ventilator that would cost less than $750 per unit and will offer a single prize of up to $300,000 to the winner in exchange for the final manufacturing package and license to share it worldwide with competent manufacturers.

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