Pakistani students win first prize at MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovations Prize competition

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March 5, 2019
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A team of Pakistani students has won the first prize for introducing an effective but cheap ventilator which is a fraction of the cost of a modern-day ventilator, an initiative which would be welcomed in Pakistan if proceeded with.

The team won the first prize at MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovations Prize competition for reinventing the ventilator at a much cheaper price. The ventilator proposed by the winning team Umbulizer would cost around $2,000 (Rs280,000) compared to a regular ventilator that usually costs about $15,000 (Rs2 million). These machines are generally very expensive and the majority of Pakistanis are unable to afford this medical necessity which helps people breathe since they are so expensive that countries like Pakistan cannot afford them.

The team achieved this monumental feat by downgrading the physical appearance and some unneeded expensive functionality. The key was to provide the four fundamental functionalities in ventilators instead of the fifteen functions in standard ventilators which add a lot to the cost but are rarely used. The ventilator proposed by the team was also different in looks compared to a normal ventilator and looked like a desktop printer as opposed to the conventional bedside ventilator. Furthermore, the proposed $2000 dollar is capable of running on batteries which ads mobility and goes well with its size. After an operator connects the device’s single tube to a patient, it rhythmically pumps a safe amount of air into their lungs.

Due to the deteriorating conditions of hospitals in Pakistan and the expensive cost of a conventional ventilator, there are a total of 2000 ventilators Pakistan, which is extremely minute considering the massive population of the country. Most hospitals are forced to use the cheaper Ambu Bag. Hospital staff or even a patient’s attendant has to apply constant manual pressure to make it work so oxygen goes to the patient’s lungs.

The team plans to take their invention to Pakistan which is in dire need of such cheap but effective equipment. If successful, the Umbulizer team believes this solution will prove to be successful in the entire South Asian region.

“When we spoke to Pakistani doctors and hospital administrators, they expressed a need for a device that is simple to operate, capable of remote monitoring, portable, and built using locally sourced material. All of those considerations have informed our [first iteration of this machine],” Piracha told the audience. “Our device’s competitive advantage lies in the fact that we’ve balanced the accuracy and consistency of a traditional ventilator with the portability and affordability of an Ambu Bag.

The team consisted of Boston University graduate Shaheer Piracha, Harvard Medical School student, Sanchay Gupta, MIT alumni, Moiz Imam ’18 and Abdurrahman Akkas ’18, MIT mechanical engineering student, Wasay Anwer, Boston University student Rohan Jadeja, and Farzan Khan, who recently graduated from New York University Abu Dhabi.

 
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