In Brief

Coronavirus: F1 champions Mercedes help create breathing aid

Silver Arrows worked with University College London engineers to produce a device in less than a week

Engineers from the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team usually produce fast championship-winning cars but now they have helped to rapidly create life-saving breathing devices to aid Covid-19 patients.

The breathing aid has been adapted by mechanical engineers at University College London (UCL) and clinicians at University College Hospital (UCLH) working with Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP).

Known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), the breathing aid can help keep Covid-19 patients out of intensive care.

It has been approved for use in the NHS and recommended by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The devices are already used in NHS hospitals but are in short supply.

The BBC reports that if trials are successful up to 1,000 of the CPAP machines can be produced per day by Mercedes AMG HPP beginning in one week’s time.

As part of “Project Pitlane”, it was reported last week that a collective of seven UK-based F1 teams were helping the Government’s call for assistance with the manufacture of medical devices.

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100 hours to produce the first device

Since the initial meeting on 18 March, engineers have been “working round the clock” to reverse engineer a device that can be produced rapidly by the thousands. 

UCL said in a statement: “This breathing aid was produced within a rapid timeframe - it took fewer than 100 hours from the initial meeting to production of the first device. 

“One hundred devices are to be delivered to UCLH for clinical trials, with rapid roll-out to hospitals around the country ahead of the predicted surge in Covid-19 hospital admissions.”

UCLH critical care consultant Professor Mervyn Singer added: “These devices will help to save lives by ensuring that ventilators, a limited resource, are used only for the most severely ill. 

“While they will be tested at UCLH first, we hope they will make a real difference to hospitals across the UK by reducing demand on intensive care staff and beds, as well as helping patients recover without the need for more invasive ventilation.”

Andy Cowell, managing director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, said the F1 teams had shown an “impressive response” with Project Pitlane. 

He said: “The Formula 1 community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the ‘Project Pitlane’ collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects. 

“We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe.”

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