University of South Florida biomedical engineering graduates receive national honors for a prototype device that could help address the critical shortage of life-saving ventilators seen around the world throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Eucovent, a patent-pending device that allows two patients to be ventilated by a single machine, was developed by USF students Carolyna Yamamoto Alves Pinto, Abby Blocker and Jacob Yarinsky. The trio built the device as part of their senior biomedical engineering design project.
âI think what stands out most is how relevant a ventilation topic was then and still is today,â Yarinsky said. âEspecially with what you’ve seen happening around the world with COVID-19 and hospitals not having enough ventilators for the number of patients they were treating. The project seemed extremely relevant and meaningful.
This idea was brought to the class by Moffitt Cancer Center researchers Aaron Muncey, Heiko Enderling, and Stefano Pasetto, who were looking for new solutions to co-ventilation problems. Although there are existing devices capable of “distributing” the airflow among multiple patients, most of the solutions available do not offer any type of customization. This is particularly problematic because patients require different volumes of airflow depending on their lung compliance and body weight, among other factors. For example, a 150 pound woman may need much less airflow than a 250 pound man.
To solve this problem, the team used two main techniques: dynamic resistance and time division multiplexing. Dynamic resistance refers to an obstruction that limits the amount of air delivered to each patient. To achieve this, the group manufactured custom valves that can be independently adjusted to meet the individual airflow needs of each patient. Using time division multiplexing, a common digital signaling technique suggested to the team by USF professor Christopher Passaglia, the device can alternate between patients, effectively delivering breaths to each person independently.
Along with these two main solutions, the team members had to use all of their undergraduate research experience for the project. Using their knowledge of biomechanics, as well as methods such as 3D printing, computer programming and modeling, as well as computer-aided design, the group was able to complete and test the prototype with great success.
“It was a great joy and a privilege to work with Abby, Jacob and Carolyna, each talented in their own right with unique and complementary skills and to see them turn an initial idea into a new innovative technology,” said Dr Aaron Muncey , deputy member. from Moffitt’s Department of Anesthesiology. âTheir commitment, dedication and work ethic has been essential to the completion of this project and I expect that we will have an impact on the lives of many patients through the further development of this technology. ”
The suitability of such a device became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, as hospitals around the world struggled to provide ventilators to every patient who needed them. The Eucovent effectively doubles a hospital’s existing capacity without having to purchase additional ventilators, which can cost up to $ 15,000 per unit. The team says its use goes far beyond the current pandemic, with applications in natural disaster settings, remote locations and areas with low resources.
âWe believe that Eucovent offers many advantages, especially in terms of cost and safety,â said Yamamoto Alves Pinto. âCompared to a new ventilator, the device is extremely inexpensive, making ventilation more accessible and affordable. It also offers a higher level of patient care compared to existing solutions, making it a safer and more reliable option for co-ventilation.
“This project shows the opportunity we have for joint research efforts between the Moffitt Cancer Center and USF,” said Heiko Enderling, researcher in Moffitt’s Integrated Mathematical Oncology Unit. âIt was truly humbling and inspiring to see how the students took the initial ideas and completely transformed, designed and implemented this very innovative device. We sincerely hope that these results will lay the foundation for a clinical device that can help many patients in different scenarios around the world.
The praise received for the device inspired the team to pursue local and national innovation competitions. They first participated in the Jabil Innovation Technology Challenge, a statewide competition open to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students from Florida. After winning the first prize of $ 10,000, the students set their sights on the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) annual Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) challenge, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH ) and VentureWell. This prestigious competition is open to teams from across the country and had previously been won by groups from universities such as Stanford and Columbia. This year, the USF team and their Eucovent won the top prize of $ 20,000.
âIt’s incredibly rewarding to be recognized at this level, especially for something that we believe could someday save lives,â Blocker said. “We learned so much through this blended experience and it really gave us the opportunity to use all the knowledge and skills that we had acquired during our undergraduate course.”
The group credits their undergraduate experience to USF’s medical engineering department for giving them the tools to create such an innovative and impactful device. All three are summa cum laude graduates of the department with degrees in biomedical engineering. Since graduating, Yamamoto Alves Pinto has started a doctoral program at Johns Hopkins University. Blocker is preparing to start a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and Yarinsky is currently working as an engineer at Nilogen Oncosystems in Tampa.
The Department of Medical Engineering is a joint program between USF College of Engineering and USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. It was first established with funding from the Florida State Preeminence Program. In 2018, the Florida Board of Governors designated USF as a preeminent state research university, allocating more than $ 6 million in new funding to improve research activities and student achievement in strategic areas. USF is one of the very few universities to have a Department of Medical Engineering and one of four in Florida to offer a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering.
As for the Eucovent, the team plans to publish this work and continue to improve the design pending patent approval. They are also handing the project over to another synthesis group at USF to further develop the design and give other students the opportunity to contribute to a lifesaving device.