A BYU engineering capstone project from eight years ago has now transformed into an innovative, inexpensive way to treat COVID-19 patients.
The original project aimed to create an infant ventilator for premature babies that could be used in developing nations. BYU grads Erica and Kindall Palmer were in the process of seeking FDA approval for the neonatal ventilator when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and they realized their ventilator design could help.
The Palmers created a new version of the original ventilator, this time for use on adults. The design is simple and small, making it much cheaper and easier to mass produce than most ventilators, and the built-in pump and back-up battery make it perfect for emergency use in makeshift, overflow hospitals. It was also recently approved by the FDA for emergency use.
Erica said they were able to get emergency approval from the FDA fairly quickly because they had already completed many of the required tests with the infant ventilator. The adult ventilator will still have to go through the approval process for full-time, non-emergency use, but Erica said they hope to have that done before the coronavirus pandemic ends.
The original project was largely motivated by the Palmers’ own experience when their son, Erickson, was born with a heart defect and spent the first two months of his life on a ventilator. Erickson is now four years old and completely healthy.
“That was kind of our inspiration and motivation to take that school project and do it for real, and not just create a hypothetical plan,” Erica said, “So that was an epic driving force in our beginnings.”