NASA engineers have built a new high-pressure prototype ventilator in just over a month's time and is now seeking fast-track approval, the space agency said.
Engineers built the ventilator in 37 days at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The machine will help address a national demand for ventilators to treat seriously ill coronavirus patients.
NASA said the new ventilator was recently tested at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, where there have been more than 140,000 COVID-19 cases.
"We specialize in spacecraft, not medical-device manufacturing, but excellent engineering, rigorous testing, and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties," JPL Director Michael Watkins said in a statement. "When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise, and drive."
The VITAL machine, which stands for Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally, uses fewer parts and is flexible enough to be modified for use in field hospitals or other non-traditional settings. It's designed to last between three and four months, specifically for COVID-19 patients.
"We have the potential to save human lives, people that we might know, our neighbors, our families, and that intensity is amazing," Michelle Easter, a mechatronics engineer, said in a NASA video. "It's amazing and as stressful as it's been for everybody in the last couple of weeks, not one of us can stop."
NASA is now seeking expedited approval for the machine from the U.S. Food and Drug and Drug Administration.