Lawrence Livermore Looks to Industry to Commercialize New Ventilator Prototype 

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It all came together through a “skunkworks effort” to address the national shortage.

A crew of scientists and engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab came together in mid-March with the strategic intent to rapidly produce a solution to address the dire need for mechanical ventilators as the nation copes with COVID-19. The initial result of their work was unveiled this week: the Novel Emergency Response Ventilator—or NERVe—Prototype.

Now, the team is turning to the private sector for help. 

“LLNL is seeking industry partners with a demonstrated ability to bring this prototype to the market,” officials wrote in a special notice released Tuesday.

America is enduring a weighty ventilator shortage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and according to the solicitation, the cadre “initiated a skunkworks effort to address the projected shortfall.” Generally, skunkworks projects usually encompass less-constrained research and development work that involves more loosely structured groups of relevant experts. 

In this case, the national lab insiders ultimately aimed “to prototype a ventilator system using as few parts as possible and sourced from a supply chain completely separate from that of traditional ventilator manufacturers.”

Trained officials at clinical health care centers are the target users of the new NERVe prototype device, which the notice said is “intended to be safe, simple and easy to build, while still achieving the minimally required functionality necessary to treat patients with COVID-19.” On top of detailing a range of the ventilators’ components, they added that the “system is also designed to adapt to a patient in the case they spontaneously breathe on their own.”

Officials also clarify that while the prototype has the capability to be retrofitted down the line to include enhanced functionality, it’s only meant for emergency use in the current scheme.

Interested individuals from companies that might aim to commercialize the NERVe are invited to respond via snail mail with a written statement of interest by May 15.