LOS ANGELES (CBS News) — Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have joined the fight against the coronavirus in a unique way. A team from the space agency used their technical skills to develop a ventilator specifically for COVID-19 patients – in record time.
For scientists who specialize in spacecrafts – designing an earth-bound medical machine might be one of their most unusual creations yet.
“This was a complete departure we’re not a medical device company,” said Sarah Hovsepian, an employee at NASA-JPL.
She is part of the team behind Project VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally).
The group of NASA-JPL employees designed, built and tested a new type of ventilator – from scratch – in just 37 days.
It was an incredible feat for a socially distanced staff. A small group worked on the prototype in person – while the rest relied on video conferencing.
Combining the technical know-how of more than 100 people – remotely – was one of the most challenging parts of the job.
“And we were creating a new path for this new way of working, a new way of doing things and it was incredible how much we were able to accomplish in a short period of time,” said Hovsepian.
The prototype is only made of about 80 parts – and was designed to deliver more oxygen at higher pressure
Something doctors say is needed for many COVID-19 patients.
Testing at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York – has so far proven the project a success.
“We have the potential to save human lives, people that we might know, our neighbors, our families and that intensity, it’s amazing, it’s amazing,” said Michelle Easter with NASA-JPL.
A technological triumph at a time it’s needed the most.
NASA is now seeking emergency U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for their ventilator and speaking with manufacturing companies who are interested in producing it.