PRESS RELEASE – 20th January 2021

 PRESS RELEASE

 

20th January 2021

British taskforce unveils UK negative pressure ventilator to assist recovery of COVID-19 patients and for use in the treatment of Pneumonia and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

As the UK feels the impact of the current wave of coronavirus, the exovent task force today unveils its UK negative pressure ventilator designed to assist the recovery of COVID-19 patients and for the treatment of Pneumonia and COPD.

The exovent task force formed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis, inspired by calls from the UK Government for rapid innovation to combat the challenge presented by this highly contagious and aggressive disease.  The team is composed of anaesthetists, critical care consultants, nurses, medical clinicians, engineers, academics, scientists and manufacturers.

exovent was not part of the UK Ventilator Challenge as this was conceived for positive pressure devices.  Instead, the exovent team focused on exploring the benefits of negative pressure ventilation, founded upon lessons learned from nearly 100 years of Negative Pressure utilisation.

Thanks to the investment of over £1m of volunteer time, rapid engineering development and prototyping by Marshall ADG (the UK’s leading privately owned Aerospace and Defence business) and partnership with WMG High Value Manufacturing Catapult,  a highly professional system is now available for approval.  The latest and most advanced iteration, the exovent-19, is ready to progress to approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.  Once approved, several leading intensive and respiratory care units stand ready to trial the system, including the Critical Care Research Team, Southampton NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (University Hospital Southampton & University of Southampton) and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn NHS Trust.

Recognising the applicability of the technology to developing countries, the team has also been partnering internationally with pioneer groups in Ghana, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia to help them develop local versions that can be approved and manufactured by them using locally sourced materials where possible.  Marshall has shipped two of its protoype exovent machines designed and manufactured at its Cambridge headquarters, direct to Indian ventilator manufacturer, Skanray, who plan to use them, along with the supporting design information, to develop a relatively low cost production model that can be rapidly approved and developed for mass distribution in their local markets as quickly as possible.

We are hoping to come to an agreement with a UK based manufacturer in the coming weeks.  In addition, the exovent team plan to develop both a global low cost system and a paediatric low cost system working with UK engineering partners.

Speaking about the new system, exovent CEO, Ian Joesbury, stated:

“We are really excited to be unveiling this life saving system which is a cutting-edge reinvention of pre-existing technology. In the UK I believe this can form part of a longer-term plan to treat COVID-19. As the patient does not need to be anaesthetised it opens up alternative treatment options that may allow more patients to be treated outside of intensive care.”

Dr Malcolm Coulthard, from the exovent team, said:

“From research and findings to date, we firmly believe that the use of negative pressure devices can transform the patient journey for COVID-19 patients and those with pneumonia and other diseases that affect breathing. The technology is safe, simple to use and systems could be built and deployed rapidly, in both the UK and overseas. Our recent paper published in the medical journal Anaesthesia demonstrates that the exovent-19 is twice as efficient as other negative pressure systems.”

Patrick Wood, Chief Technical Officer at Marshall ADG, shared:

“Our engineering team have designed a robust and reliable  system using rapid prototyping methodology that enabled the first systems to be functionally tested within a few weeks of our first discussions. We look forward to seeing the system help patients across the globe once it is approved.”

 

How exovent works as an alternative treatment for COVID-19

One of the key features of COVID-19 is that it can cause pneumonia and acute respiratory failure, with over 2 million recorded deaths across the world by mid January 2021. Many countries, including the UK, took substantial action to mitigate the impact including putting in place support for ventilator production.  However, whilst ventilators and high flow oxygen devices are clearly lifesaving, they are not without their challenges and may not be suitable for all patients, particularly the elderly.

In contrast, the exovent-19 has key benefits that make it particularly suitable to support COVID-19 patients. Use of negative pressure is far less intrusive and much more like normal breathing than either intubation or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). exovent-19 is non-invasive, which means that patients do not need to have their windpipes intubated, so they don’t need to be anaesthetised and oxygen can be delivered in the form of a normal oxygen mask or nasal prongs rather than through a high flow oxygen device that puts hospital oxygen supplies under pressure. Patients remain conscious, and can take medication and nutrition by mouth, and talk to loved ones on the phone.

exovent-19 works by being fitted over the patient’s torso and can operate in two modes, continuous negative extrathoracic pressure (CNEP), the negative pressure equivalent of CPAP, increases the volume of air in the lungs while the patient continues to breath for themselves by applying negative pressure to the outside of the patient’s chest and abdomen. Negative pressure ventilation (NPV) cycles that negative pressure and reduces the effort required for a patient to breath. The level of support can be increased or reduced progressively to help in the patient’s recovery. It also increases the heart’s efficiency compared to conventional ventilators which squeeze the chest and put pressure on the heart. The simple design concept for the exovent system makes it widely accessible with highly cost effective, reliable units able to be readily manufactured and approved around the world.

Longer term vision

The vision of the team is a world where everyone has access to non invasive breathing support when they need it.  Recognising the important contribution that exovent systems can make in achieving this in the longer as well as the short term, the task force decided to register as a UK Charity.  The team is very grateful to law firm Bates Wells who generously donated their time and expertise and to many other companies who have provided support.

The response of the Charity Commission was also enormously impressive – understanding the urgency, they registered the charity in just one working day. Charity Commission CEO, Helen Stephenson, later explained that like Bates Wells, her team was determined to do what they could to help the COVID effort and prioritised all COVID related applications.

 

–           ENDS           –

 

For more information see https://exovent.org/

 

exovent media enquiries

Kate Miller/Bianka Weber

exovent@drdpartnership.com

07720 593428 / 079 2667 1486

Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group media enquiries

Sarah Oakes

Sarah.Oakes@marshalladg.com

07765 221168

 

WMG media enquiries

Alice Scott

alice.j.scott@warwick.ac.uk

07920 531 221

Note to Editors

Medical benefits

    • exovent-19 can provide an alternative choice to using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) by delivering continuous negative extrathoracic pressure (CNEP). This device does not require to be driven by pressurised air or oxygen. Additional oxygen that the patient needs can be provided with tubing or a face mask as required
    • exovent-19 should give excellent oxygen and carbon-dioxide transfer because replacing PPV+PEEP (positive pressure ventilation + positive end expiratory pressure) with NPV+NEEP (negative pressure ventilation + negative end expiratory pressure) has been shown to give equal or improved gas transfer when treating ARDS
    • exovent-19 should increase the heart’s efficiency by up to 25% compared to conventional PPV which squeezes the heart and veins in the chest and may actually reduce cardiac function. This is especially important because COVID-19 can make heart function worse
    • exovent-19 is non-invasive, which means that patients do not need to have their windpipes intubated, so they don’t need to be sedated or paralysed. Instead, they can remain conscious, take medication and nutrition by mouth, and talk to loved ones on the phone
    • Being non-invasive and simple to use, exovent-19 could be used in intensive care or potentially on an ordinary ward
    • exovent-19 only covers the torso so monitoring is still possible, and patients can be easily treated while prone (lying on their front) which is more effective in treating pneumonia. Oxygen can be delivered direct to the patient by mask or tubing as required
    • exovent-19 is less likely to cause a pneumothorax (burst lung) as negative pressure ventilation produces less micro-trauma to the lung

Manufacturing benefits:

    • Can be rapidly mass produced
    • Uses parts currently available in the UK
    • Has a small number of moving parts
    • Does not compete for the same resources required by the commissioned manufacturers of PPVs
    • Unlike PPVs or CPAPs, exovent does not require medical-grade compressed gases, which are at risk of shortage in the NHS due to heavy levels of demand for oxygen (although Covid-19 patients will need to be treated with oxygen)
    • Is less expensive than other forms of ventilation
    • Can be assembled at speed

About Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group:

    • Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (MADG) has specialised in protecting people in critical situations for more than 100 years. Today the company continues to deliver its global customers world-leading applied engineering services across its core capabilities of managed services, integration and technologies.
    • MADG comprises a team of more than 1,800 highly skilled colleagues, located across UK, Canada, Europe and Middle East, dedicated to setting the highest standards across the industry.
    • MADG is part of Marshall of Cambridge (Holdings) Limited, the private holding company of the Marshall family. Founded in 1909, the Group had a turnover of nearly £2.5bn in 2018, and more than 5,500 employees.

About WMG, University of Warwick

    • WMG is a world leading research and education group, transforming organisations and driving innovation through a unique combination of collaborative research and development, and pioneering education programmes.
    • As an international role model for successful partnerships between academia and the private and public sectors, WMG develops advancements nationally and globally, in applied science, technology and engineering, to deliver real impact to economic growth, society and the environment.
    • WMG’s education programmes focus on lifelong learning of the brightest talent, from the WMG Academies for Young Engineers, degree apprenticeships, undergraduate and postgraduate, through to professional programmes.
    • An academic department of the University of Warwick, and a centre for the HVM Catapult, WMG was founded by the late Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya in 1980 to help reinvigorate UK manufacturing and improve competitiveness through innovation and skills development.

 

 

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