by Chris Halliday | Orangeville Banner
With Ontario calling on its “best and brightest minds” to combat coronavirus, an Orangeville businessman, a Nigerian-born doctor and his partners are close to bringing an affordable emergency ventilator to market. The LifeAir G1 is based on an initial design by Dayo Olakulehin, a former doctor in Nigeria who immigrated to Canada with the concept of designing an inexpensive ventilator that could save lives and be affordable for developing nations.
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“It is portable, very small, easy to carry. It is like carrying a box of kitty litter that you buy at the store. It is about that size,” said Orangeville businessman Louis Sapi, who partnered with former Nigerian doctor Dayo Olakulehin on the project several years ago.
“Progress was slow as we invested just enough to build a prototype but there was no interest from anyone else to help invest,” he added. “COVID-19 changed everything.”
Dubbed the LifeAir G1, Sapi said the emergency ventilator was initially designed to be sold for about $1,000 U.S., making it more affordable for poor and remote hospitals and clinics in the developing world.
The business group recently received $150,000 in funding from an American seed money startup accelerator called Y Combinator, which Sapi said has helped finalize the prototype and get the emergency ventilator closer to Health Canada for possible certification.
“With LifeAir, you don’t need an intensive care unit bed. You don’t need an anesthesiologist and you don’t need a ventilator specialist. You can put this in a nursing home for these elderly people who are starting to suffer,” Sapi explained.
“This one would be sufficient for the majority of cases that are currently on ventilators,” he added. “On a scale of 1 to 10 of respiratory distress — one is low, 10 is you need to be on an iron lung — we can handle up to a level 6 or 6.5.”
Sapi said the group’s next step will be to approach the province. The government recently announced it would invest $20 million into the advancement of medical research and tools to combat infectious diseases through an Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund.
“Our province, our country and the entire world face an unprecedented situation, and the innovation and expertise of our research community is needed now more than ever,” said Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano.
“We have some of the best and brightest minds anywhere in the world right here in Ontario,” added Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
“Whether it’s developing a vaccine, using 3-D printers to make personal protective equipment or designing better portable ventilators, our brilliant researchers are leading the charge in the fight against COVID-19.”
First known as the Dbox, the LifeAir G1 is based on an initial design by Olakulehin, a former doctor in Nigeria who immigrated to Canada with the concept of designing an inexpensive ventilator that could save lives and be affordable for developing nations.
Sapi first met Olakulehin after he’d finished a guest lecture for the Research Innovation and Creation (RIC) Centre, an Ontario program that provides advice to startup companies. When Olakulehin approached him, Sapi saw how much the prototype meant to him.
“There were almost tears in his eyes — how many deaths he saw that were needless. Children, adults, that really affected him,” Sapi recalled, stating more than 100,000 people die in Nigeria alone every year from respiratory distress, largely due to malaria.
“He had no money. He was a poor doctor who can’t practice as a doctor in Canada. It is a typical story,” Sapii said. “He was just trying to find work and at the same time, help this project be born.”
The cost of most ventilators, Sapi said, starts at about $10,000 U.S. on the “low end” and can reach up to $30,000 or $40,000. He said Olakulehin and his partners have designed a prototype that could cost about $1,000.
Sapi said the group is about three to four weeks away from having its prototype tested to World Health Organization (WHO) parameters. He said the finalized design is now with Health Canada for certification.
“The WHO knows about us. The United Nations know about us,” Sapi explained. “They wanted us to get this product to market but we didn’t have the money.”
The LifeAir G1 emergency ventilator can control tidal volume, breathing rate, inspiration/expiration ratio and pressure safety systems and alarms. While it doesn’t require intubation, Sapi said it comes with an attachment allowing a patient to be intubated if required.
“For the non-intubation, we free up the need to intubate which frees up the specialist. That also frees up an anesthesiologist. That also frees up an ICU bed,” he said.
“Instead of shipping (seniors) to hospital where the coronavirus is running rampant, you can keep them in their own room with their own personal emergency ventilator,” he said, “That’s freeing up (hospital) resources, fighting the pandemic, helping long-term care facilities.”
Read from source Orangeville.com
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