F1 comes to the rescue in COVID-19 crisis 

Mercedes High Performance Powertrains has conjured a breathing aid that is a substitute for ventilators and applicable to patients in less serious conditions

F1 comes to the rescue in COVID-19 crisis 

Ashis Ray

The Formula One car racing season is at a standstill because of the Coronavirus pandemic. But engine-makers for Mercedes F1, the eight-time constructors’ champion in the circuit, Britain-based Mercedes High Performance Powertrains (MHPP), has flown off the grid in a flash to rescue a health crisis that has crippled the world. MHPP has conjured a breathing aid that is a substitute for ventilators and applicable to patients in less serious conditions.

F1 revealed engineers and clinicians worked at University College London (UCL) to reverse-engineer an existing Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, so as to enable mass-production of it. UCL told F1: “It took fewer than 100 hours from the initial meeting to production of the first device.”

MHPP’s managing director, Andy Cowell, said: “We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible time-frame.”

Professor Tim Baker of UCL’s Mechanical Engineering Department stated: “We are thankful that we were able to reduce a process that could take years down to a matter of days.”

A critical care consultant at UCL Hospital was quoted as saying: “These devices will help to save lives.”

The device delivers oxygen to the lungs. CPAP equipment are already in use in hospitals; and have been availed of in China and Italy to help COVID19 patients.

The MHPP prototypes were delivered to UCL and three other hospitals for trials. The company is capable of producing 1,000 such machines a day. This would immensely embellish capability outside intensive care units and even in homes. It will cost much less than a ventilator; and can be manufactured far quicker. The British government’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already extended approval for its use.

Alicia Dimas McNulty, spokeswoman for MHRA, expanded: “The MHRA has provided regulatory guidance to a team of University College London (UCL) and Mercedes Formula One engineers and clinicians to build an adapted Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device that delivers oxygen to the lungs without needing a ventilator. The device which has now been approved to use in patients, provides breathing support and can help keep Coronavirus patients out of intensive care.”

Shortage of ventilators – which are vitally required to support critically affected victims of the virus – is a global phenomenon. A consortium comprising of engineering and technological giants, Airbus, BAE Systems, Ford, Rolls-Royce and Siemens, has been formed to meet the emergency. An order for 10,000 ventilators has been placed by the UK’s National Health Service. Production is ready to begin next week.

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