IUST Creates Ruhdaar, A Kashmir Made Low-Cost Frugal Ventilator

by Masood Hussain

SRINAGAR: The engineers and innovators from Kashmir have created a prototype of a low-cost ventilator. The prototype came to life on Wednesday afternoon and is still running successfully in the laboratory, individuals associated with the innovation said.

Experts at the IUST working on the frugal ventilator. Pic: IUST

The prototype is expected to be handed over to the medical experts at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura in Srinagar for evaluating it. That process will begin once the innovators are satisfied with its functioning in the laboratory.

The idea was initiated by the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST), Awantipiora where a design and innovation centre works under Dr Shahkar Nehvi. They collaborated with two engineers – Dr Majid Hamid  Koul and Dr Saad, at the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Srinagar and had some support from another academic who works in an American University. He actually was project’s overseas mentor.

Dr Shabir Hassan

Dr Shabir Hassan works at the Harvard Medical School. After having completed BSc from the University, Dr Hassan mastered in Biotechnology from the University of Pune. He did his PhD in spectroscopy where he used ultrafast laser spectroscopy to study protein folding, aggregation and photothermal effects in proteins in real-time. Later, he won the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) fellowship in 2016 to carry out his research at Harvard Medical School in drug and metabolite delivery applications of novel nanoparticles targeting diseases and other medical conditions. In 2018, he won an Advanced Grant from SNSF to do his collaborative research at Harvard/MIT and University of Twente, Netherlands, according to his Harvard Medical School profile.

“Our team was working on this project for many weeks and finally the prototype was completed on Wednesday,” IUST’s public relations officer, Murshid Khan said. Apart from the team at the innovation cell, he said the IUST had collaborated with Dr Majid Hamid Koul, an earlier faculty of the IUST who recently joined the NIT. “The ventilator is too cheap in comparison to what is in the market.” He said it may not cost more than Rs 15,000, a piece.

“Proud of the team at IUST/NIT. A simple call between two friends finally resulted in a frugal ventilator made in Kashmir,” the US-based collaborator, Shabir Hassan, a robotics engineer, tweeted. “Kudos to the team including @rahim_green , Profs. M. Siddiqui, S. Parvez, S. Nahvi, M. Koul, S. Fayaz, the wonderful team & @Raheelk .”

Innovators in the IUST lab working on the Ruhdaar, the frugal ventilator that was born on April 22, 2020. Pic: IUST

Khan said initially the idea was to create a ventilator for which some parts would be flown from the US. “Shabir Sahab had actually shipped the consignment of components but they are yet to land here,” Khan said. “While waiting for this, the innovators at the universities decided to make a prototype on the basis of the components that are either available locally or within India and that is how it became possible.”

While the prototype, named Ruhdaar (something with a soul), is working successfully in the laboratory, Khan said it will be assessed by the medical experts who eventually will have to use the product. “It depends on them how they assess it, maybe they suggest certain amends,” he said. “Once it is approved by them, there is the possibility of manufacturing it for commercial use.” He said the possibility of one ventilator being used by more than one patient would depend on the add-ons and the requirements. “That innovator will take care of that later,” Khan said. “They may add splitters but that will be decided by the medical experts.”

VC Speaks

Prof Dr Mushtaq Sidiqui

“I am thrilled because what our 7-member team has achieved has not been done anywhere in the world. It is our own design and its components are mostly local,” Professor Mushtaq A Siddiqui, the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the IUST said. “When I left the SKIMS, we had, maybe 10 ventilators. If approved, we can produce that number in a week, now.” He said the team broke the news to him on Wednesday afternoon and he was thrilled over the “moment of pride for Jammu and Kashmir”.

Himself an eminent immunologist Dr Sidiqui said to him the prototype is fine and all right. “But it depends on the medical fraternity to accept or reject it,” Dr Sidiuqi said. “They can suggest us the change and modifications if at all it requires.” As a doctor, he said the product is all right.

Dr Siduqui said initially the team wanted to work on an MIT model but they could not manage to get the consignment of spears from the USA because of the ongoing global lockdown. “They created their own design and it worked and worked very well.”

Once approved, Dr Sidiqui said they will go for immediate patenting and hand over the technology to a stat up or a couple of startups locally so that we can produce them on the mass scale.

The team members who were part of the project included Shahkar Nehvi, coordinator at the Design Innovation Centre, two NIT academics – Dr Majid Hamid Koul and Dr Saad Parvez, Shuib Perzada, an IUST assistant professor, two former students of the IUST – Asif Shah, and Zulqarnain, and Jawaaz Ahmad, a design fellow at the DIC. Abdul Hamid Bhat of the Raheem Greens also collaborated with the team by arranging certain requirements for the team. Dr Shabir Hassan was the overseas mentor of the project, Khan said.

Shielding Doctors

Ventilator Shortage

The ventilators that are hugely in demand world over are the only major intervention that helps the Covid-19 patients to breathe when their lungs are critically impacted by the Coronavirus. The entire health sector in India has not more than 40,000 ventilators operational right now. Jammu and Kashmir, that has witnessed massive trauma load in the hospitals in the last 30 years have also not more than 150 operational ventilators. A number of carmakers have gone into ventilator making across India to manage the huge appetite for the equipment exhibited by the health sector. However, a normal ventilator does not cost less than Rs 10 lakhs.

Reports appearing in media said there are a total of 208 ventilators across Jammu and Kashmir including the private sector. These include 96 in Jammu region (including 23 small ventilators) and 112 in Kashmir (including 21 in the private sector). Authorities are seeking 400 additional ventilators of which they have been given 34.

If the IUST innovation is approved, it will help manage the crisis to a fair extent. The pandemic, it may be recalled here has thrown up a challenge for the innovator’s world over to offer an alternative in the shortest period of time. Countless innovators have designed different alternative machines in the last quarter.

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