Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit announced that it has developed a mass-producible bridge ventilator to help ease the shortage of machines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virgin Orbit said in a news release that it is consulting with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), a group formed to aid in building ventilators for the needs of healthcare facilities caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The consortium is led by the University of California Irvine and the University of Texas at Austin.
If it gains FDA clearance for the device, the company plans to start production at its Long Beach, Calif., plant in early April.
Under normal circumstances, Virgin Orbit produces rockets and equipment for space launch. However, the company said the California Emergency Services Authority and put in contact with the BVC. It is not the only company moving away from its bread and butter, as Tesla announced that it is manufacturing Medtronic ventilators as many others step forward to address the shortage of equipment.
Virgin Orbit said its engineers have taken rapid scaling into account with the aim of having a functioning, deployable bridge ventilator in production in early April. Once the new device is reproducible and production-ready, Virgin Orbit may activate other manufacturers to increase production even more.
“We are all heartbroken each night as we turn on the news and see the predicament facing doctors and nurses as they heroically work to save lives,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a news release. “I have never seen our team working harder. Never seen ideas moving quicker from design to prototype. We are hopeful that this device can help as we all prepare for the challenges ahead.”