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FDA nods approval for NASA ventilator to combat COVID-19

par John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 04, 2020
NASA VITAL is specifically tailored to treat COVID-19 patients and is meant to help increase the supply of ventilators available throughout the pandemic.
The FDA has approved the release of a ventilator designed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Granted under the agency’s ventilator emergency use authorization, the device, known as NASA VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), is specifically tailored for COVID-19, and is meant for healthcare facilities facing shortages of ventilators and other breathing devices that are needed to care for patients who test positive for the virus.

“This FDA authorization is a key milestone in a process that exemplifies the best of what the government can do in a time of crisis,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “This ventilator is one of countless examples of how taxpayer investments in space exploration — the skills, expertise and knowledge collected over decades of pushing boundaries and achieving firsts for humanity — translate into advancements that improve life on Earth.”

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The solution is intended to last three-to-four months and is built with fewer components from outside the current medical device supply chain so it can be built faster and does not impact the existing supply chain of currently made ventilators. The device can be maintained more easily than a traditional ventilator and can be modified for use in field hospitals set up in convention centers, hotels and other high-capacity facilities across the country and around the globe.

It supports patients experiencing respiratory failure or insufficiency, and like all ventilators, requires them to be sedated with an oxygen tube inserted into the airway to breathe. It should be noted, however, that the device does not replace current hospital ventilators, which can last years and are designed to address a broader range of medical conditions.



A number of companies outside healthcare have adjusted their operations to design and distribute ventilators to help provide a sufficient supply to healthcare providers. Ford Motor Company, for instance, has teamed up with GE to produce 50,000 within 100 days, while Tesla has pledged to reopen its New York state factory and commence production of ventilators as soon as possible.

The approval of NASA VITAL by the FDA is one of several products approved by the agency under its Emergency Use Authorization to combat the pandemic, with others including certain ventilators, respirators, antibody tests, ventilator tubing and accessories, anesthesia gas machines, and positive pressure breathing devices.

“Fighting the virus and treating patients during this unprecedented global pandemic requires innovative approaches and action,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, in a statement. “It also takes an all-hands-on-deck approach, as demonstrated by the NASA engineers who used their expertise in spacecraft to design a ventilator tailored for very ill coronavirus patients. This example shows what we can do when everyone works together to fight COVID-19.”

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