responding to the health crisis caused by the Covid-19, different States in the world have launched calls for projects in search of innovative solutions to combat this serious infectious disease. In Tunisia, at the polytechnic School of the central University, a member institution of Honorary United Universities, a team decided to contribute to the development of a respirator for non-invasive ventilation easy to manufacture and inexpensive to address the shortage of respirators observed due to the large number of patients Covid-19 intensive care units in the hospitals. Even if, as the result of the containment the pressure is much less strong, this initiative is worth that one is examining, because it shows how the countries of the South can have the resource in the face of adversity like the Covid-19.
The Point Africa : How did the initiative develop a prototype of a ventilator for noninvasive ventilation, as well as other projects around ?
Professor Nidhal Rezg : The central University has set up a working group with its partners : Ditex, the centre of excellence born of the collaboration between Dassault systèmes and the university of Lorraine in France, and the society of industrial engineering Tech-3D. The main objective is to produce a solution that is affordable and easy to produce on a global scale. A team of doctors in the network Honoris, in which the professor Chadli Dziri, a prominent surgeon and director of the Honorary Medical Simulation Center in Tunis, and dr. Mamoun Ben Cheikh, anaesthetist and intensivist, were also consulted on the design of the prototype.
We have worked for during this period of confinement in a collaborative mode on a device that is using 3D printing to protect against the coronavirus and assist the sick of the Covid-19. The proposed scheme in 3D printing is achievable in half a day. It has three features through its options of use. The first option relates to a protective mask 3D-printed and washable several times. Option 2 of the device is its use as a mask venturi oxygen. Option 3 deals with the respirator in non-invasive ventilation in which the patient is achieved by the novel coronavirus is assisted through our device to breathe. It is important to know that 20 % of patients by the Covid-19 deficiencies acute respiratory and 15 % require non-invasive ventilation. Our respirator is a solution for those 15 %.
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How is the cooperation between the different stakeholders of these projects ?
We worked in a collaborative mode to develop the respirator through digital platforms shared as the 3DEXPERIENCE of Dassault systèmes, where the device has been designed and simulated. The different partners of the consortium worked in close collaboration with the advice of the doctors in the network Honoris United Universities for the medical aspects. This sharing of ideas and knowledge through the collaborative work tools has helped to put in place a respirator bag and mask bit bulky, functional, ergonomic, and offers different modes of oxygenation for a cost of less than € 180. It is easy to make in half a day by a 3D printing. The components used are reliable and inexpensive. They are also available on the market in the different countries of the world. We provide the realization of the respirator in open source through free download via the website shared by the different partners of the project.
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Now that you have to be well advanced in these projects, what is the phase of production, harvesting and marketing ?
However, the version 2 of the prototype developed requires a registration and industrialisation for series production. To this day, a industrial in Tunis expressed its interest to contribute to the production of our respirator, passing through a phase of registration with the tunisian ministry of Health. It is the company's OneTech.
What is missing for such initiatives come to fruition outside of exceptional circumstances such as those we currently know it ?
It is important that this kind of initiative should be encouraged by the implementation of the streamlined transfer procedures between university and industry in order to achieve faster this type of product. There is currently a lack at the level of States, and particularly on the african continent, a one-stop shop where this type of solution may be deposited to bring it to fruition.
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Have you felt the policies are ready to seize this opportunity to encourage the research, development and innovation in a logical frugal south-South ?
policies currently are in the management of the health crisis, through field actions, such as quarantine and the use of protection solution through the masks and gels, hydro-alcoholic. This crisis has highlighted the mobilization of the intelligences and the ability to find creative solutions on the continent. It is essential that this momentum be sustained in the future.
What lessons technical, industrial and human conclusions can you draw from this experience ?
This initiative has allowed us to be reactive vis-à-vis a situation of emergency. The academic world has managed to raise the networking of an idea to provide a solution for the control of infection through a respirator in non-invasive ventilation. We have learned to work in a collaborative mode in order to optimize our device, taking into account the essential function of non-invasive ventilation and thus produce a respirator at a low cost. Our respirator is easy to duplicate in the different countries of Africa and available in open source on the Web for a quick use against respiratory illness due to sars Coronavirus. This is a great experience where the whole of the resources of our network of Honorary United Universities have been mobilized to respond to a health emergency in a spirit of solidarity.
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FOLLOW THE EXPLANATION on the respirator "made in Tunisia" of the Central University.