As the technology and startup world steps up its fight against COVID-19 in partnership with the government, ventilator manufacturing is one area where some concrete progress has already happened. With direct support from the government, Agva Healthcare, which had developed a portable and cost-effective ventilator in the country, is ramping up production of the devices in its Noida plant.
“We have received support from Maruti Suzuki India in terms of manpower, space and manufacturing know-how, armed with which we are aiming at producing 10,000 to 15,000 ventilators in the coming month,” said Diwakar Vaish, cofounder of Agva Healthcare.
From next month onwards the target is to ramp up production to 25,000 pieces, he added. Moneycontrol had written on March 24 how Agva Healthcare was prepping up to manufacture new ventilators and deploy them at hospitals quickly.
They have received an order for 10,000 ventilators from the central government which will eventually be given out to the major hospitals in the frontline treating COVID-19 patients.
To help the startup deal with financial requirements, the government has even made an advance with regards to payments for the ventilators, which are priced at Rs 1.5 lakh each. The advantage of these devices is that they are portable and can be deployed quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
“The device is just shy of one foot and weigh only 2.5 kg,” said Vaish. Normally ventilators tend to be bulky and occupy a large space. India used to primarily import these devices from other countries.
Bengaluru-based Ethereal Machines has also pitched in with its own efforts to enhance ventilators which are a crucial device in the fight against COVID-19. Since the virus attacks the lungs, the ventilators can provide breathing assistance to patients in an advanced stage of the infection. But India does not have a sufficient number of such devices. Media reports peg the total number in the country anywhere between 17,000 and 57,000.
Ethereal Machines is creating splitters for ventilators thereby enabling them to provide support to two patients at the same time. This device will come in handy when the number of ventilators fall woefully short in comparison to the number of patients requiring intensive care which is not the case in India, yet.
On March 27, Moneycontrol wrote how India could leverage its 3D printing capabilities to help hospitals and frontline medical staff treat patients suffering from Covid19.
The startup recently received Rs 50 lakh in grants from ACT Grant which is a Rs 100-crore fund created by top venture capitalists and startup founders in the country. They have also started to mass-produce the product so they can be deployed with hospitals falling short of the life-support device.
These splitters are advanced 3D-printed valve-like structures which can not only split oxygen flow between two patients but also prevent cross-contamination. With regards to the regulatory nod, the Central Drug Standard and Control Organisation does not directly regulate these devices. Therefore, they can be deployed if the medical fraternity okays it and only when there is a severe shortage of life-support machines.“We are finalising the vendors for production and are looking to make 25,000 of these devices by the end of this month. We will also create a request page where hospitals and medical professionals can put in their requests,” said Kaushik Mudda, cofounder of Ethereal Machines.