Gentle persuasion is better than force

From childhood I’ve always had a fascination with Aesop’s Fables, a blueprint for life and how to live it well. We are all familiar with the many fables and one of my favourites that I remember being told as a child and repeating to my own children is the story of The North Wind and the Sun. I like to think of Exovent as the Sun.

Exovent is a negative pressure breathing support device and unlike other respiratory support devices, Exovent persuades the chest and lungs to move by negative pressure around the chest wall and abdomen rather than forcing the chest to move with positive pressure. This is more physiological, and unsurprisingly when natural breathing is persuaded this has many advantages to when it is forced.

None of this new. Unfortunately over 100 years of experience in negative pressure ventilation devices has been lost to the generation of clinicians from the 1960’s onwards. Exovent using modern materials, technology and components has rediscovered negative pressure ventilatory support and developed contemporary devices.

My involvement with Exovent came in March 2020, at the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK. I had a call from Prof David Howard, a colleague I had known for over 20 years asking if I knew anything about negative pressure devices and how they could help dealing with COVID-19. I joined the team and it quickly became apparent that Exovent had massive potential not just in treating COVID-19 but for so many respiratory diseases, Pneumonia, COPD, ARDS.

That period in early 2020 for all of us, and particularly those working on the NHS front line was a worrying time. We were dealing with COVID-19 patients, a largely unknown disease, we were not sure of what was the best treatment and how patients would respond. We were frightened for what could happen to us as frontline healthcare workers, and it was exhausting.

During this difficult period, my involvement with Exovent and engaging with outstanding professionals from medical, nursing, engineering and commercial backgrounds felt like respite from the day job. Dr Jim Roberts a Consultant colleague and I travelled to Marshall ADG (a global leading Aerospace company that were assisting exovent with design and prototyping) in Cambridge many times in those first few months of the project, and on the 29th April 2020 we tested the first unit. Many of us have worked on innovative projects in the past developing novel medical equipment but Exovent was remarkable in its speed of development in those early months.

Going forward Exovent will evolve becoming even lighter and even more powerful, and we believe this ventilatory technology will once again become central to the treatment of respiratory disease.

What was Old is New again.


Professor Anil Patel

Consultant Anaesthetist

Royal National ENT & Eastman Dental Hospital, UCLH, London

DAS Professor of Anaesthesia & Airway Management

About exovent team information

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