BY PAMELA FAYERMAN
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, a Vancouver startup company assembled a team of engineers and manufacturers in March to design and manufacture a Canadian-made, quickly scalable ventilator containing fewer than 60 components.
The company, Ocalink Technologies Inc., has now received Health Canada certification for the trademarked Pantheon Emergency Ventilator (PEV) and is reportedly taking orders. The lifesaving technology was crafted in consultation with respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists, critical care physicians, and other medical professionals, especially for COVID-19 patients.
“This is a very exciting time for Ocalink as our first manufactured units can now ship, and we can bring our made-in-Canada solution to the world…we are in the position to manufacture in large quantities and scale up to 1,000 devices a day despite a currently constrained global supply chain,” says Corbin Lowe, co-founder and CEO of Ocalink.
The PEV has been tested at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre – the largest hospital in Alberta. With public health experts warning of a second-wave surge in COVID-19 cases this autumn, the company plans to start production of the ventilators that are based on a turbine-based design that runs on electricity. It can also be supplemented with external oxygen sources for higher oxygen levels.
The design is ideal for makeshift hospital sites in case regular hospitals are swamped. The PEV has a box-shaped design and hard storage case, suitable for stockpiling and storing compared to traditional ventilator designs.
“From the very beginning, we said we needed a design that’s ultimately scalable to a million units in 90 days and anything less just isn’t very useful,” Lowe said. Although the company has not disclosed how much the units will cost, Lowe said earlier that he hoped the units would cost a few thousand dollars apiece once in production.
“The cost of the PEV is less than half the price for most ICU ventilators by well-known brands such as Dräger or GE. Hospitals in Canada and outside of Canada have expressed interest in Ocalink, and (we) are now going through product discussions with interested buyers. The device is not currently in use by hospitals as it only just received Health Canada certification.”
Lowe described the units as sophisticated yet basic.
“It does only exactly what the respiratory department needs for this specific virus and it doesn’t do anything extra.”
In the U.S. there have been reports of excess ventilators so I asked company officials if they were concerned their product might not be required. There are reportedly 5,000 ventilators in hospitals across Canada and an emergency stockpile of another 500.
Lowe said additional ventilators are necessary:
“There remains a global shortage of ventilators despite headlines (about) U.S. production. Canada, for instance, has only received 606 out of its 40,000 ventilator order as of August 15,” he said, referencing a CBC article.