Posted on: Tuesday 9 June, 2020

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced the selected manufacturers for its new pneumatic ventilator device called VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), selecting 13 international manufacturers, including NilePreneurs’ Design House at Nile University, sponsored by The Central Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr. NilePreneurs represents the only licensed manufacturer from Africa and one of only two manufacturers from the Arab World including The United Arab Emirates.

To help alleviate the limited supply of traditional ventilators for COVID-19 patients, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California developed the device with Caltech and Mount Sinai Hospital. Following the development of the device, NASA offered a free license for VITAL and reached out to the commercial medical industry to find manufacturers.

NASA accepted the Design House’s proposal taking into consideration its capabilities of mechanical design, Pneumatic design, electrical engineering experience as well as general background in product development and getting products to market.

“From the beginning of the crisis, we didn’t want to follow the way of other organizations in developing a ventilator single handedly, not only because the ventilator is a highly complex machine, but also because it’s capable of inflicting major damage to patients or even cause death in case of any faults. So, we started looking for companies or organizations that will license their products” stated Ismail Khalil, Design House Manager at NilePreneurs.

The design house is currently analyzing the design of the ventilator and determining the required suppliers and factories for the manufacturing process. They will also work on turning the software of the device from a prototype to a medically approved software. However, some of the required components might not be available in Egypt which might delay production.

This process aims to manufacture 2-3 functional samples to be tested on artificial lungs with various modes of ventilation as per the testing procedure of Caltech. Following testing, approval on the ventilator will be required from the Ministry of Health. It’s expected that a duration of approximately 2-3 months will be needed to produce samples.

“If we get the approval of The Ministry of Health, we can start mass production with the manufacturing partners immediately seeing that our supply chain of the components has been established in the prototyping phase as well as the needed software which are the tasks consuming the most time,” explained Khalil.

NASA Selects NilePreneurs for new project

The ventilator will be sold commercially to satisfy the development and manufacturing costs. However, it will not target high profitability, as it aims to deliver the ventilators to the patients who need it.

“The unique thing in NASA’s VITAL Ventilator is that it was developed specifically to treat COVID-19 patients and based on the testing results and the samples developed, it was granted Emergency use authorization from FDA which certified that the device does its intended function in record time,” Khalil continued.

NASA and Caltech are involved in the follow-up and evaluation phase of the Design House’s performance and it is expected that progress reports would be handed out each quarter, and accordingly NilePreneurs will be judged to continue to hold license. NASA and Caltech are also available for limited technical inquiries.

“This project provides the team with an opportunity to handle a complex medical product as well as the risks associated with it. This will open up our capacity as an outsourced Engineering R&D entity to develop medical products for others and expand the market of medical products made in Egypt”, Khalil concluded.

The Design House center in NilePreneurs, sponsored by Banque Misr, supports Startups and SMEs in translating their product requirements into reality by following a rigorous and tested standard operating procedure for product development and reverse engineering.

It aims to enable and energize the manufacturing and product design environment in Egypt through its experience, skills and proficiency in different software and technical know-how that make the engineering solutions agile.

Design House Services include: new product design, reverse engineering services, designing and manufacturing prototypes, designing production equipment, manufacturing services for spare parts and nontraditional parts and providing technical training.

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