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Vermont Engineer Develops Device to Free Up Ventilators for Sickest COVID-19 Patients

Friday, May 1, 2020   (0 Comments)

When Vermont's economy shut down to battle the coronavirus, Jim Richards felt fortunate his aviation company in South Burlington, Aerodyme Corp., was allowed to stay open.

Business fell off significantly for the small company offering engineering support to owners of Rockwell Commander airplanes. Soon Aerodyme was down to Richards, 66, his wife and a key engineer, and even the three of them had time on their hands.

"We're a pretty sharp bunch of engineers, the three of us," Richards said. "We just got talking one day about this need for breathing assistance machines — ventilators, in a word."

Richards, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in electrical engineering, spent his career innovating and inventing in the consumer electronics field before opening Aerodyme in 2002. He felt sure he could design a ventilator that would be effective, cheap and easy to build.

After getting started in early March, Richards and his team are on the verge of human trials for the AeroBreath Ventilator, a simple, low-cost device that promises to bring new life-saving capabilities to the developing world. With the coronavirus crisis in mind, Richards also hopes to free up expensive, sophisticated ventilators for those who need them most in American hospitals by allowing recovering patients to transition to the AeroBreath ventilator.

Drawing on his connections at MIT, Richards teamed up with a doctor at a Boston hospital, who is forming a clinical trial in May for 20 patients using the AeroBreath ventilator. The trial will generate data that will be used to apply for approval for the device from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Richards said he is also planning to do a test session on an artificial lung at the University of Vermont's IMFLabs, which offers custom design and fabrication services. These tests will confirm results Richards generated using the AeroBreath ventilator on himself and are an important step in preparing for the human trials in Boston.

Read the full Burlington Free Press article.

See the AeroBreath press release.