OxVent - A Ventilator to Meet Covid-19 Demands

22nd June 2020

News, Alumni news, Home Feed

Following in the footsteps of their Royal Society predecessors, Wadham Fellows share their experience of answering a government call for more ventilators to meet COVID-19 demand.

Play OxVent audience

Over 100 alumni from across the globe logged into the OxVent event hosted by Warden Ken Macdonald QC who voiced the Colleges pride in this extraordinary effort by Wadham Fellows and colleagues to design and build a low cost ventilator.  

The core team behind the project, Professors Andrew Farmery (Medicine), Mark Thompson and Alfonso Castrejon-Pita (Engineering) and King's College London’s Dr Federico Formenti share their experience of working to meet a government call to increase the UK’s ventilator manufacturing capacity and describe the longer term future for the OxVent ventilator in this video

Speaking from Wadham’s Royal Society Room, Professor Andrew Farmery described how some 350 years ago, the room was the setting for the designs of a first mechanical ventilator by Warden Wilkins and a group of natural philosophers investigating the purposes of the lung.
It was in mid-March 2020, reacting to the government’s UK ventilator challenge, a DPhil student, Robert Staruch suggested to Mark Thompson that Oxford should think about a response. The team began work on a prototype in the first week and quickly pitched their design to the Cabinet Office via a teleconference and prepared the presentation video launching the product involving one of Alfonso’s students.  
“We were very proud of our prototype design” said Mark and their successful pitch to government led to a pairing with Smith and Nephew’s wound care division in Hull, where work began on developing the ventilator on a non-commercial basis. A team of ten from Oxford stayed in a deserted Holiday Inn in Hull and worked round the clock with the Hull team.
“We had a tight deadline to get a device to the MHRA to be tested and the day before we still had circuit boards in a factory in Hampshire – they needed to be in Humberside. Her Majesty the Queen lent us her private helicopter to fly them there,” said Andrew.

“We are delighted, of course that the UK did not need OxVent in the end,” said Mark. Hospitals were not overwhelmed and did not need emergency ventilators. As a result the OxVent team had to pivot and while it took time to adjust to being stopped as a government project and losing Smith and Nephew as a partner, the project gained hugely in agility and flexibility. 

The team is confident that the rapidly manufacturable OxVent has a role in the acute international Covid19 response and in the medium term as a low cost ventilator internationally, particularly in low and middle income countries. To meet those demands, an OxVent research project is continuing at King’s College London and in Oxford and a joint venture not-for-profit social enterprise has been spun out.   

The immediate plans focus on deployment in Mexico and Brazil where the pandemic demand for ventilators is still accelerating. The team is addressing regulatory bodies in those countries and also the FDA in the US to show OxVent has achieved the highest emergency medical device standard.  

Questions from alumni focused on energy consumption and costs, safety features, sourcing of components and regulatory approval.