Three mechanical engineering professors at Pa.-based Villanova University— C. Nataraj, PhD; Alfonso Ortega, PhD; and Garrett Clayton, PhD; along with Chris Townend, facilities manager for the College of Engineering—have patented a new mechanical ventilator named NovaVent.

Initially manufactured as an emergency alternative during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NovaVent, will now serve as high-efficiency, low-cost devices suitable for mitigating the global need for medical equipment.

“The need for this equipment goes beyond COVID-19,” says Nataraj. “Ventilators like NovaVent are critical parts of the medical infrastructure that are also needed to help the treatment of lung disease, cardiac arrest, strokes, brain injuries and more.”

NovaVent is made from widely accessible components to provide continuous mandatory ventilation (CMV) intended for patients incapable of breathing on their own. The patented design also controls tidal volume, a vital component to providing enough ventilation to a patient while preventing lung trauma. Settings can be adjusted through the control panel and alarms will sound if the correct conditions aren’t met. The NovaVent supplies CMV at a rate of roughly 90% of expensive high-end ventilators, while saving tens of thousands of dollars in production costs, according to Nataraj.

The designers tested the equipment on a lung simulator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and further calibrated the ventilator using a simulator at Villanova.

“The Villanova team launched the NovaVent initiative at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to help address a critical, worldwide ventilator shortage,” says Amanda Grannas, PhD, vice provost, chief research officer and professor of chemistry. “While we are luckily past that acute need, this ventilator could continue to provide societal and humanitarian benefits for years to come. We are so proud of the work of this interdisciplinary team and their success in developing cost-effective medical technology to benefit the global population.”

“It is especially heartening to visualize the humanitarian aspects of NovaVent,” adds Nataraj. “We are looking forward to working with like-minded partners to make such critical, life-saving technology affordable to all people regardless of where they live or how affluent they are.”

NovaVent is the first patented technology to come from the Novamed lab, an interdisciplinary lab dedicated to developing open-source, affordable and globally available medical technologies. Novamed is also testing drones to deliver medical supplies, advancing diagnostic algorithms to increase the accuracy of medical diagnoses, and designing reliable, customizable lab equipment that can be 3D-printed and controlled by inexpensive microcontrollers.