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Medical Innovations Unveiled Which May Ease Need For Ventilators

Two local companies unveiled new medical devices today which may aide with the national demand for ventilators.

Both companies also partnered with medical experts from University Hospitals and received fast track approval from the FDA to get the products on the market quickly.

The first device, called a pneumatic resuscitator, is a simplified version of the ventilators hospitals are using to help people suffering from COVID-19, said Dan Moore, owner of the company which will manufacture the device in Cleveland.

The mechanical pump is smaller and less expensive than traditional ventilators, Moore said.

“It’s an emergency ventilator, which can be hooked up very quickly,” he said.

Hospitals can use it to help about 70 percent of the people who need breathing support when they are ill from virus, and then save the traditional ventilators for the sickest of the sick patients, he said.

“This was intended to take care of the peak demand that people are going to have in a very economic way, so that any hospital could afford it,” Moore said.

The cost for each machine is about $6,000. The traditional ventilator can retail for three times that price, he said.

It’s also made with parts that readily are available, so there would be no issues with waiting for parts and materials to come from other countries.

The initial idea came from Zac Ponsky, founder and co-president of MedWorks, a non-profit organization that links people who are uninsured and underinsured with healthcare. Ponsky was given a $50,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation to develop a simple ventilator and find further funding, Moore said.

After Moore became part of the team to develop the product, he used a group of engineers from his other businesses, to bring the idea to life, he said.

They formed a new company called Second Breath to produce and market the breathing machines.

“The unique idea about this project is the way that Cleveland sort of came together as a team to make this happen,” he said.

“We did this whole project in three weeks,” Moore said.

One of the other members of the team was University Hospitals anesthesiologist, Dr. Mada Helou, who helped the engineers refine the design.

Helou, who was on loan to the team from UH, helped by explaining the different metrics they needed on the machine and the kind of valves needed to make it a safe device, she said.

“The traditional ventilators have multiple different settings. This one has one standard way of ventilating, but it meets the purposes for our COVID patient population,” Helou said.

Just as this machine was made in anticipation of a high demand from a surge of patients into hospitals, another local company has created a new device aimed at easing the need for traditional ventilators.

The other Northeast Ohio company, Synapse Biomedical, partnered with UH and Case Western Reserve University to create a machine that can help wean patients off ventilators sooner, and possibly free them up for the most seriously ill patients, said UH physician Dr. Raymond Onder.

The TransAeris Diaphragmatic Pacing (DP) Stimulator System uses a series of small electrodes to engage the patient's diaphragm muscle while a patient is acutely sick with the coronavirus and is using a ventilator for breathing support, said Onder.

The electrodes help strengthen the muscle while the patient is rehabilitating, he said.

When a patient is taken off a ventilator “it takes days re-strengthen the diaphragm muscle mass,” said Onder.

 “What we are doing is making sure the diaphragm does not get weak while they are fighting the disease,” he said.

The technology used in this device has been around for many years and has helped patients suffering from other illnesses, such as spinal cord injuries, he said. The late actor Christopher Reeve of Superman fame was one of the first patients to have had one of the earliest versions of DP.

The device has now been refocused toward COVID-19 patients, he said.

It received approval from the FDA for emergency use on Tuesday, he said. It will be manufactured at a facility in Oberlin.

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