Several weeks ago, we posed the question: what role could grass-roots innovators play in easing the respirator shortage?
Well, the answer is “a big role.” Yesterday, the NYC Mayor’s office announced that “a City-convened effort producing a new line of bridge ventilators to support local hospitals and health care workers. Local manufacturers will produce at least 3,000 of these devices, which will be deployed to hospitals, helping to save lives by supplementing limited ventilator resources.”
A “bridge” ventilator isn’t a full-blown ventilator — it’s a lower-cost device meant to transition people from ventilators so that full-blown ventilators can be freed up for patients needing them. The device — called the “Spiro Wave” — is priced at $3,000, one tenth of the cost of a full-blown one.
Based on an MIT design, the Spiro Wave is the fruit of a partnership between NY’s Economic Development Corporation and City-based firms Boyce Technologies, Newlab, 10XBeta and Otherlab. The device received Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on April 17.
“This is a story about doing the impossible – so it’s a New York story,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We’d never made a ventilator before – and so we made thousands. We learned it would take a year – and so we did it in a month. Our City is taking our future into our own hands. That’s how we’ll beat this crisis and prepare for the next.”
It is impressive to see local innovators step up to produce useful products at scale so rapidly. While it’s clear that the U.S. was caught flat-footed by COVID-19, one should not underestimate what local innovators, armed with open source design, collaborative communications, tools, and micro-manufacturing capabilities, can do, especially if they happen to receive appropriate public support (the project was seeded by a $100,000 grant from the City’s Economic Development Corporation).