Spotlight on life-saving CPAP device developed at UCLH and UCL

feature in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine has shone a spotlight on the experience of the UCLH and UCL team that worked with Mercedes F1 engineers to develop a life-saving breathing aid at the height of the pandemic.

The UCL Ventura CPAP device was developed with the crucial involvement and leadership of UCLH critical care consultants Prof Mervyn Singer and Dr David Brealey. The devices and supporting kit are now used in 120 NHS hospitals after the UK government ordered 10,000 devices.

As of September 2020, the designs for the device have been requested 3439 times and access has been given to 1970 teams from 105 countries around the world. And the team of clinicians and engineers received the Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Special Award for Pandemic Services – which honoured exceptional engineering achievements in tackling Covid-19.

Early in the pandemic, the team worked to remedy a national shortage of CPAP devices by reverse-engineering an off-patent breathing aid which it then improved and manufactured at pace. 

It took less than 100 hours from the first discussions about the concept to the first prototype being designed, manufactured and tested.

Clinical data from UCLH shows that half of patients treated with CPAP do not progress to invasive ventilation, making this device a lifesaver.

Writing in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Prof Singer and colleagues reflect on the teamwork and partnerships which made development of the device possible. They conclude:

“The Ventura initiative, translating a brainstorming session into 10 000 devices within 1 month, would not have been possible without the cooperation, dedication, and generosity of individuals, universities, hospitals, companies, governmental bodies, and the media. It shows how usual barriers and procrastinations can be overcome safely and effectively in a time of crisis with a focused, multidisciplinary, agile, and coordinated approach, and a common aim to deliver at pace a device that will hopefully save lives.”