Feature: Cuban talents pool wisdom to develop ventilators amid COVID-19 outbreak

Source: Xinhua| 2020-07-12 11:15:12|Editor: huaxia
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Researchers show a ventilator at the Cuban Neuroscience Center in Havana, Cuba, on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Joaquin Hernandez/Xinhua)

by Yosley Carrero

HAVANA, July 11 (Xinhua) -- To 26-year-old biomedical engineer Yosvany Pantoja, designing and building Cuba's own mechanical ventilators was never easy.

"As a biomedical engineer, I knew the basics of ventilators, but this work is new for me. We need to guarantee the successful performance of the devices to contribute to the betterment of health conditions of patients," he said. "It has been a huge challenge for me."

Pantoja is one of the nearly 20 developers at the Havana-based Cuban Neuroscience Center (CNEURO) who have worked on the design of two ventilator models to facilitate invasive and non-invasive ventilation of the lungs of a patient.

These developers, together with researchers and engineers from universities, research centers, hospitals, state institutions and private enterprises across the country, have joined a work project to manufacture Cuba's own high-quality ventilators to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Cuban health authorities, the country reported seven COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total infections to 2,420, with 87 deaths.

Ernesto Valverde, leader of the project, said large-scale production of ventilators could open up a great opportunity for Cuba to support its health system and substitute imports amid the COVID-19 crisis, during which the United States tightened economic sanctions against Cuba, making it hard for the island country to import medical supplies and equipment.

"We do have the capacity to manufacture high-quality ventilators in the country, and we will continue working really hard to support the Cuban health system in the fight against the novel coronavirus and other diseases," Valverde said.

The first Cuban ventilator prototype will be tested in animals in the coming days, before being validated by the Cuban Center for State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices.

According to Mitchell Valdes, director of the CNEURO, nearly 500 mechanical ventilators are expected to be at the disposal of the Cuban public health system by late October.

"Although our intensive care units at COVID-19 hospitals never collapsed, we have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. This project is part of the Cuban response to the novel coronavirus emergency," Valdes said.

He added that Cuba has taken steps to achieve technological sovereignty as the pandemic exacerbates medical equipment shortages amid tightening U.S. sanctions.

"We have used open-source ventilator designs provided by universities in the United States and the UK to develop the Cuban ventilators. Besides, we have tailored international research findings to the particular conditions of the country," he said. "We will be prepared to better confront COVID-19 and the pandemics to come."

For 28-year-old Jose Carlos Santos, another developer at the CNEURO, Cuba's positive performance in the fight against the disease has also come as a result of efforts made by the country's scientific community.

"We have learned many things in a short period. The experience has been very interesting despite complexities of this work," he said. "We have just responded to the call of duty."


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