COVID-19 Ventilator Open Source Project
Helping innovative ventilator project off the ground
Addressing the acute shortage of ventilators around the world has been one of the defining challenges of the pandemic. To aid provision in the US we are delivering pro bono legal advice to a venture developing a new ventilator to aid those most seriously affected by COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Ventilator Open Source Project is the brainchild of mechanical engineer Tarik Yousef. After leaving Honda to set up a furniture business in Columbus, Ohio, Tarik saw unmet needs as America went into lockdown. Feeling compelled to use his skills to make a difference, he set about developing a ventilator for emergency use in hospitals – one that would be open-source, built largely from easily sourced off-the-shelf components and available at a fraction of the cost of existing products.
The shortage of ventilators is a huge problem in the US. Estimates suggest hospitals could need an extra 800,000 units to meet peak demand during the COVID-19 crisis. Before the pandemic domestic companies made around 14,000 a year, and even as they ramp up production and new manufacturing capacity is diverted from other industries, more help is desperately needed.
Tarik’s solution has been to design a device that converts existing human-powered ventilators into automated units. It uses materials that are readily available in hospitals, minimising the need for bespoke components and reducing sanitary risk. For those parts that need to be manufactured Tarik is building an army of volunteers around the world. All in, his ventilator would be 90 per cent cheaper than existing products and because it is open source would be available to help critically ill patients anywhere from California to Cairo.
Freshfields’ contribution has been to co-ordinate the legal support required to bring Tarik’s idea to reality. Some has been simple corporate law advice on how to register a not-for-profit company. But it has also involved bringing in specialist help from other law firms to expedite efforts to secure FDA approvals. With the clock ticking to meet the project’s goals before it’s too late, speed has been essential.