Nobel Prize winner helping create simple ventilator for mass production in Canada
TORONTO -- A team of Canadian researchers is working on a stripped-down version of much-needed ventilators designed to be delivered to hospitals by the end of the month.
Arthur McDonald, a Queen’s University professor from Sydney, N.S. who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2015, told CTV News Channel that he is working with researchers from the TRIUMF particle accelerator in Vancouver, SNOLAB in Lively, Ont. and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories at Chalk River, Ont. to create a simple ventilator made of parts that are easily found in Canada.
“Everyone that is working on this project is simply motivated by attempting to save lives,” he said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is working with several Canadian parties -- including McDonald -- to produce 30,000 ventilators for Canadian hospitals.
McDonald said he’s “close” to receiving Health Canada approval for the product and should have contracts in place within the next couple of days with manufacturers capable of producing more than a thousand of these ventilators each week.
“When we have the first production models in a few weeks, we’ll be able to get them certified and into hospitals very rapidly,” he said, adding he expects them to be in use by the end of April.
Ventilators, devices that feed air into human lungs no longer capable of breathing on their own, are in short supply as Canada battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 18, the University of Toronto, University Health Network and Sunnybrook Hospital released a preliminary study that suggested a “conservative scenario” in which they would run out of ventilators in just 37 days.
McDonald said his team’s device is “about twice the size of a clock radio” and makes use of only the most essential parts of a typical ventilator. It uses simple parts for the valves, combined with a control unit similar to those used for particle physics experiments.
“The real sophistication comes in the electronic controller, but even then we’re using simple, readily available parts,” he said.
The idea for a simple ventilator design originally came from Italy, one of the hot spots for the virus where to date 17,127 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
McDonald is essentially recreating the Italian design, but with modifications to include parts that can be easily found in Canada. Like the Italian version, McDonald said the design will be free for anyone in the world to recreate.
With a file from CTVNews.ca Writer Jackie Dunham