Local tech giant Walton has readied ventilators for clinical trials, in the wake of a domestic and global crisis of the device. The machines are used to aid the breathing of critically-ill Covid-19 patients.
The company has handed over three models of the machine – one from world reputed Medtronic and two of its own inventions – to the government.
Walton said they can produce 100 percent of the ventilators locally, based on demand, once the health directorate approves it following the trials.
State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Junaid Ahmed Palak accepted the three Walton models via a video message on Tuesday.
The ventilators will be delivered to the health directorate today, according to the state minister.
"After we hand them over to the health directorate, they will be trialled on patients at hospitals – then, their results and approval status will be checked," he said.
Palak added that, to produce ventilators, My One, the Military Institute of Science and Technology, the Armed Forces, a2i Innovation Lab, Buet, MIST, and many more organisations have also come forward. "We have 18 more models ready," he stated.
Regarding the local ventilators' quality and price, the state minister said, "there is no room for question regarding the quality of the ventilators as they are made using the components of Medtronic."
"The rest of the models, made of local components, will also be produced according to the standards of the health directorate," he added.
"Even if these ventilators are sold commercially, manufacturers will not make any profit. They will be available at a much lower price than the imported ones," Palak continued.
Engineer Liaquat Ali Bhuiyan, an advisor to Walton's ventilator project, said Walton's aim is to stand by the people of the country at this critical juncture.
Golam Murshed, chief engineer of the project, said one of the functional prototypes of these three models of ventilators has been developed in a joint venture with Medtronic. The other two are Walton's own inventions.
Describing the three models of ventilators, Tawfiq Ul Quader, deputy head engineer of Walton's project, said Walton's PB560 model designed by Medtronic has been named the WPB560.
Medtronic is also supplying FDA-certified ventilator parts. Their two own models of ventilators have been named the WCV-20 and WAB-20.
He said it is possible to control the oxygen ratio as needed in the first two ventilators. These can also be used in hospital ICUs and at home. The process of using them for patients is also very simple as they follow an automatic system.
When will commercial production begin?
When asked how many ventilators Walton will produce and when commercial operations will begin, Junaid Ahmed Palak said Medtronic ventilator production will depend on the availability of components and raw materials.
"About 100 ventilators can be made per month but everything depends on the approval of the health directorate," he explained.
Liaquat Ali Bhuiyan said, "the supply of Medtronic ventilators may be low, but Walton can supply its own models as much as the demand. We hope to be able to supply the product in late May or early June."
Earlier, Medtronic handed over the patent, design and source code of their PB560 model ventilator on March 31 to the Information and Communication Technology Department through a videoconference.
Medtronic's Hyderabad research and development team worked closely with Walton and the Bangladesh government in this regard. However, no decision has been made yet on the price of this product.
Former chairman and CEO of Medtronic Omar Ishrak, a Bangladeshi national who is now the head of computer processor company Intel, was behind Bangladesh's getting the patent, design and source code of Medtronic ventilator.
Currently, a Chinese ventilator costs at least Tk7 lakh to import while the figure is Tk18-20 lakh for a European one.
A ventilator is a device that assists patients with respiration and helps prevent suffocation. The machines are in high demand as the lungs of critically-ill Covid-19 patients do not function properly.