Low-cost machine targets low-resource settings
Experts attending the 2009 International Conference on Prematurity and Stillbirth convened by GAPPS concluded that attempts to prevent preterm birth had not proven successful, and urged emphasis on therapies that save the lives of premature infants. This declaration propelled work forward already underway at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Investigators there were studying ways to help the more than 1 million premature infants who die each year as a result of underdeveloped lungs.
Many of these lives could be saved by respiratory support using mechanical ventilators, but most of these children are born in low-resource countries where even second-hand ventilators cannot help because they are complicated to use and too costly to maintain. Enter the Hansen Ventilator — a low-cost, low-maintenance, easy-to-use device with the potential to save hundreds of thousands of newborns in the developing world.
Invented by members of the GAPPS team including Thomas N. Hansen, MD, Seattle Children’s chief executive officer, and Charles V. Smith, PhD, head of the Center for Developmental Therapeutics of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the simple yet effective ventilator costs less than $1,000 to make compared to the $30,000-40,000 required for a standard life-support machine. After a promising study published in Pediatric Research in June 2010, researchers are designing a trial to test the ventilator in countries with the highest infant death rates.
“GAPPS continues to promote the use and development of low-cost, evidence-based interventions like the ventilator as new approaches to improve maternal and newborn health,” Hansen said. “This is a great example of how discovery science can be translated into innovative, low-cost solutions.”