ENGINEERS, anaesthetists and surgeons from Oxford University and King’s College London are building and testing prototypes for rapidly-deployable ventilators.

The idea is they can be manufactured using techniques and tools available in well-equipped university and small and medium enterprise (SME) workshops and then sent out to nearby hospitals.

The team, led by Oxford Professors Andrew Farmery, Mark Thompson and Alfonso Castrejon-Pita and King’s College London’s Dr Federico Formenti, are working in response to the UK government's calls to increase the country’s ventilator manufacturing capacity due to Covid-19.

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Once tested for safety and reliability, the approach could unlock potential for a new kind of distributed manufacturing network. Professor Thompson, from the Department of Engineering Science, said: "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 Farmery, of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, added: "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.

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"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."

Within weeks researcher hope a prototype could be developed which would satisfy the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency requirements, and a mature manufacturing network at scale could be achievable within two-three months.