It is said that crisis brings out the best in you. This turns out to be true for indigenous ventilator industry in the country. The acute shortage of ventilators – which are essential for saving the lives of seriously ill corona patients – during the current Covid-19 crisis has prompted many Indian innovators to come forward with new designs for the machines that provide mechanical ventilation by moving breathable air into and out of the lungs.

Amitabha Bandyopadhyay, professor-in-charge at the SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre (SIIC) at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, should be a happy person. The Pune-based Nocca Robotics was among the firms that positively responded to his call to outfits incubated at SIIC to help produce medical devices and other paraphernalia required to combat the pandemicabout two months ago.

“Now eight weeks later, we probably have a ventilator as good as one can get anywhere in the world,” said Bandyopadhyay.

Nocca Robotics, promoted by IITK alumnus Nikhil Kurele and others, has designed and built a ventilator right from the scratch which is currently undergoing endurance tests at three major hospitals in Pune. “The ventilator has put on test 24x7 for last seven days,” he said.

What also helped the firm to design the ventilator is the vast alumni network of the institute as well as the constant interaction with some of the best doctors in the country. “We have been helped by a top biomedical engineer in the world as well as doctors who knew everything about ventilators,” said Bandyopadhyay.

Once the tests are successful, there are firms ready to make these ventilators. Nocca has already signed a three-year contract with defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Ltd, which will be making 10,000 ventilators soon.

AVI Healthcare, a Mumbai-based firm, which has been in the ventilator business for a couple of decades, has also signed up for making Nocca’s ventilators.

“We plan to commence production of the ventilators from June 1. Our initial plan is to make 1,000 ventilators,” said AVI Healthcare’s Chirag Gala. He said that Nocca ventilators are very sophisticated despite costing (in the range of ₹2-2.5 lakh a piece) much less than those available in international market.

Phoenix’s initiative

In Visakhapatnam’s MedTech Zone (AMTZ), Phoenix Medical Systems, a Chennai-headquartered medical devices firm, is perfecting its new ventilator designs. According to V Shashi Kumar, its founder, the firm is cashing in on its vast experience in designing respiratory systems for neonatal and maternal care, to come up with new ventilator designs. Phoenix was also a distributor for ventilators from European firms.

“We had this plant in AMTZ but we had not started doing anything there. So this was timely for us. Besides, AMTZ has placed an order for 2,000 ventilators with us,” said Kumar. According to him, ventilators from Phoenix will be priced at ₹1.48 lakh a piece and they would be meeting all specifications of a full-fledged ventilator. A ventilator in the international market costs anywhere between ₹6 lakh and ₹10 lakh.

“We are currently testing our models in our lab. If the results are satisfactory, we would send them for trials in hospitals,” said a confident Kumar. There are other firms in AMTZ which are also building home-grown ventilators.