Open-Source Release Allows Coventor to Be Produced Worldwide

The design for a low-cost ventilator created at the University of Minnesota has now been released as open-source, giving manufacturers around the globe a way to help supply care providers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ventilators serve a crucial role in treating COVID-19—but the surge in patients sickened by the pandemic is outpacing the number of ventilators available. The Coventor was designed by a team of UMN Twin Cities researchers and an alumnus as a compact, first-of-its-kind alternative to traditional ventilators, giving physicians another means to increase the oxygen levels in patients’ blood.

The US Food and Drug Administration previously authorized the production, use, and distribution of the device to health care systems. Now, the open-source release lets companies interested in manufacturing the Coventor sign a free, electronic license and download the manufacturing specifications.

Stephen Richardson, MD, one of the lead developers of the Coventor and a cardiac anesthesiology fellow in the Medical School, M Health Fairview, said making the design freely available fulfills the original aim of the project.

“From the outset, the mission of this project was to make this emergency device available to people in need, wherever they might be in the world, as quickly and safely as possible,” Richardson said. “Through the tremendous hard work, ingenuity, and force of will of hundreds of individuals coming together as a team, we have been able to make that a reality in a matter of weeks.”

The UMN research team, supported by a Rapid Response Grant from the UMN Office of Academic Clinical Affairs, included researchers from the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center, the College of Science and Engineering, and the Medical School.

Contributors to the project, however, extend well beyond the University. Support from Boston Scientific as the lead design partner and manufacturer, with input from Medtronic and UnitedHealth Group, helped the device through the FDA process. Financial and in-kind support was provided by Midwest companies Digi-Key, MGC Diagnostics, and Protolabs, as well as Teknic Inc. from the state of New York.

As the focus moves to distributing the Coventor, UnitedHealth Group, Medtronic, and Boston Scientific are helping to deploy thousands of these devices to health care providers short on traditional ventilators. Richardson said the academic-industry collaboration ensured the Coventor received the technical, clinical, regulatory, and manufacturing expertise it needed to reach the market successfully.

“Thanks to the dedication of all involved, this elegantly simple, effective design now has the potential to help fight his pandemic across the world,” he said.

The Coventor sits on a table in the Medical Devices Center

A Commitment to the Public Good

The Coventor is one example of how universities across the country are applying their research and expertise to fight the pandemic.

During this time, University technology transfer offices act as the bridge for new technologies to reach those who can quickly put them to work. The University of Minnesota is among the 82 universities and organizations to voluntarily sign on to the Association of University Technology Managers’ COVID-19 Licensing Guidelines, which aim to expedite solutions that address the pandemic by prioritizing the availability of COVID-19-related technologies for companies or organizations to license and put to use in society.

These humanitarian guidelines recommend universities design licenses to give more than one company access to the same technology and to not require royalty payments to the universities. In exchange, the company or organization licensing the technology must commit to rapidly producing and distributing its product or service to prevent, diagnose, treat, and contain COVID-19 and protect healthcare workers during the pandemic.

“Signing the AUTM pledge puts into words the shared commitment that the University of Minnesota and numerous other research institutions have to unite in serving the public good, especially during trying times,” said Rick Huebsch, executive director of UMN Technology Commercialization. “The speed at which we can bring new discoveries into society is paramount right now, so we have all hands on deck. It’s encouraging to see the unprecedented level of collaboration taking place between industry leaders and University experts as we collectively focus on putting these new technologies to work.”

The Coventor and several other technologies designed to fight the pandemic are now available for licensing through the COVID-19 Innovations page.

Learn more about the origin of the Coventor: