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Winnipeg Ventilator tapped for Canada’s fight against coronavirus

A Winnipeg company is behind one of the ventilator designs that is going to help Canada fight the pandemic. Global's Malika Karim reports on how they're working in overdrive to mass produce the potentially lifesaving machines – Apr 8, 2020

The Winnipeg Ventilator could play a big role in Canada’s fight against the novel coronavirus, according to its manufacturer.

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The ventilator model, created by digital health company Cerebra decades ago, has been picked by Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster (NGen), the organization co-ordinating the country’s medical equipment supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cerebra’s executive chair, Earl Gardiner, told 680 CJOB the federal government is looking for thousands of the devices — and due to uncertainty over exactly how many will be needed before the crisis is over, Cerebra is aiming high.

“They’re looking for 4,000 but there’s also been numbers in Canada quoted at 10,000. Our plan in terms of supply chain, I think we’re really focused on what if we had to make 10,000, so it’s a big number.”

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Gardiner said his company is working on securing its supply chain so it can pump out the ventilators without interruption.

Due to the crisis, he said modifications are also being made to the original design, which was introduced by Dr. Magdy Younis and used extensively in ICUs worldwide in the ’90s and ’00s, and during the 2003 SARS crisis.

READ MORE: Winnipeg-based ventilator company extra busy in face of COVID-19

“We’re working literally around the clock and trying to take Dr. Younis’s core technology and modernize it,” said Gardiner.

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“Thirty years ago, the dial that turned up the pressure looks quite different than the dials that are used now.

“So we’re really trying to modernize it and ensure… we can make large numbers and do them quickly.”

The ventilator was selected for the country’s COVID-19 response by a national consortium of engineers and manufacturers, and the first phase of the project — aimed at quickly replenishing Canada’s low supply of ventilators — is being led by Starfish Medical, the country’s largest medical device design company.

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“The nature of respiratory distress in patients with COVID-19 requires different approaches to ventilatory support in different patients, and in the same patient at different times,” said Younes.

“This means the ventilator must be able to deliver a range of ventilator modes and oxygen concentrations of up to 100 per cent.”

Younes said all standard commercial ventilators manufactured for ICUs meet those requirements, but the Winnipeg Ventilator is unique in its ability to be manufactured quickly, on a large scale and with lower costs.

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