Q&A with Amy Kavalewitz and Danny Blacker of Rice University

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | June 19, 2020
From the May 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

We want people to be able to do this safely, we want people able to put them out through FDA approval, but that’s in the U.S. There are other countries where the process might be different.

HCB News: Regarding other countries, that’s the beauty of offering the plans for free online. Have you gotten any news of your plans being used internationally?
AK: We definitely have people reaching out, telling us they’re in different countries and making them, but we aren’t aware of any being tested on patients yet. One of our main things to do is to get plans out there. If manufacturers want to pick them up and mass produce, that’s fine too, but I would think that requires FDA approval.

Rice University has released open-source plans for ApolloBVM, a bag valve mask automation device meant for emergency use when patients, including those with COVID-19, need assistance to breathe.
(Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
Although we did put it out as open source, we did ask people to register. It’s free registration open to anyone and instant access. We did that so if we make improvements or find a safety issue, we can update people. In doing so, we’ve also been able to keep a little bit of statistics. From that, we’ve learned that more than 2,000 people have registered and accessed our site from more than 100 countries. Sure, some of those people are just curious, but some are actually making them. We’ve received so many emails that we’ve been getting help in responding to them. It’s a mix of warming your heart as so many people step up to help, but it’s also upsetting as you realize how many people are panicked because they might not have the supplies they need.

BVM acrylic version
HCB News: Have there been any big endorsements, for lack of a better word, from organizations or companies interested in your emergency ventilator design?
AK: I can’t name everyone right now, but I can say Rice University is really lucky because we’re literally across the street from the biggest medical center in the world. So we have definitely gotten a lot of interest from physicians and hospital administrators. We are working very closely with one that we hope to be able to talk about soon. Also, a lot of people are coming from the supply chain offering to help. They’re contacting us to tell us, saying, “we can get electronics for you, we can get motors for you, we can get different parts, can we help you make the cases?” It’s awesome. We think we have our game plan, but we’ll definitely utilize those resources if needed.

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