Essential medical supplies are running out, and ventilators, needed to provide breathing support to critical patients of the disease, are in extremely short supply.
Now, to tackle this problem, a Pune-based start-up is building a low-cost version of the machine.
Here's all about it.
Current situation of ventilators in India
According to the best estimates cited by BBC, India may have around 48,000 ventilators.
The number includes those being used on existing patients as well as those that might not be operational.
Now, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already infected nearly 1,400 across states, the country is racing to get more ventilators imported and manufactured as quickly as possible.
This is where Nocca Robotics comes in
The cost of making a ventilator in India comes at around Rs. 1.5 lakh but that is not feasible for mass-production or mass-distribution across hospitals.
This is why Nocca Robotics, a start-up providing water-less robots for cleaning solar plants, is working on an affordable version of the machine, one that would cost merely a third of the current cost - Rs. 50,000.
Three prototypes are ready, moving toward trials
The two-year-old start-up, which employees techies from India's top institutes, started working on the project about a week ago and has already prepared three inexpensive, invasive ventilator prototypes.
The first one was developed in just eight hours, and now, all three are going through testing on artificial lungs with the end-goal of making them ready for clinical testing in a week's time.
Resources being sourced with local authorities' help
To make the low-cost machines, the team looked at medical supplies' groups on the internet as well as public designs from engineers at MIT.
The components for the devices (150-200 parts per machine) were sourced by re-purposing other machines, say, like drones. Local authorities also helped them with finding components, to make sure the work on the prototypes went smoothly.
Support from industry experts to help with development
Along with the local authorities, industry experts, including pulmonologists, cardiologists, scientists, innovators, and venture capitalists, have been guiding the young engineers at Nocca and vetting their work. A US-based company's head guided them on managing production while an info-tech firm's chief helped with sourcing materials.
Goal to produce 30,000 ventilators by mid-May
If all goes according to the plan, one of the prototypes might get the necessary government approvals by the end of this week.
After that, Nocca Robotics might move toward clinical testing as well as the mass-production of the device.
Reports suggest the company has been offered factories for production and is planning to make 30,000 ventilators by mid-May to meet the potential demand.
Other efforts to source ventilators also underway
Apart from this team, Noida-based AgVa Healthcare is also working with Maruti Suzuki to make some 20,000 ventilators in a month's time, while 10,000 odd units have been ordered from China.