Ventilator manufacturing project enters production
CAPE TOWN - In a big win for South African industry, the government's ventilator manufacturing project (NVP) entered production last week and the first life-saving machines should be ready in a few weeks, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel announced on Friday.
These life saving ventilators for Covid-19 pandemic patients will complement the stock in public and private hospitals, and the ventilators being bought from global manufacturers and donations received from other countries.
The breakthrough follows a process that started only four months ago after proposals were requested from local innovators and industry - 95 proposals were received.
The NVP then identified several companies and consortia with the capabilities to produce ventilators at the required specifications.
The average unit cost is around R12 500, much lower than anything that can be found commercially, said Patel.
Most of the funding for the production of 20 000 units was secured from the Solidarity Fund, with funds already provided to purchase the first 10 000 units, while negotiations were underway to fund the other units.
The Fund had previously also funded prototype development for the NVP, to the value of R11.3 million.
The South African Radio Astronomy Organisation, responsible for one of the world’s largest big-science initiatives, the Square Kilometre Array radio-astronomy project, put together a team led by Professor Rob Adam, to manage the NVP process.
Over the past few months, prototypes were designed, developed and tested, while adhering to technical and safety specifications. The ventilators are South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) approved.
"Given the enormous global shortage of ventilators, a few months ago we started the NVP with the aim of rapidly facilitating local development and manufacturing of thousands of non-invasive ventilators," said Patel in a statement.
"Within four months we have gone from not producing any ventilators at all to having the first units in production. With prototypes approved, funding raised, and component supply lines secured, manufacturing has begun,” he said.
The NVP also had the industrial capacity to scale up production for export to other African countries should the need arise, he added.
“Based on clinical experience in global epicentres like China, Italy, the UK and the US, senior critical care physicians advised that we should focus on the production of non-
invasive Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices, while the health system focused on procuring more complex and invasive ventilators to supplement curreavailable devices. Out of the 95 proposals received, six were selected to continue to the prototyping phase,” said Patel.
Four manufacturers have received SAHPRA approval.
The Solidarity Fund had already approved funding for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research project, which had started production on an order of 10 000 units that
would be delivered in stages over the next two months. Negotiations with other entities were still in process.
The CSIR anticipated that the first batch of 2000 ventilators would be delivered within the next few weeks, with further units delivered by mid-August, and the balance by the beginning of September.