Walton ventilators set off for clinical trials today
Bangladesh is inching towards a major breakthrough in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as the Access to Information programme under the government's ICT division has so far received 19 prototypes of ventilators developed by different organisations and individuals.
After scrutiny, the ventilators will be handed over to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) for clinical trials, said Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for the ICT division, at a virtual press conference yesterday.
At the press conference, Palak received prototypes of three ventilators manufactured by local tech giant Walton. Their clinical trial is expected to start today.
Bangladesh has only 1,250 ventilators, which takes over the body's breathing process when coronavirus infection causes the lungs to fail. And if the pandemic spreads further, the country with more than 16 crore population will need at least 25,000 ventilators, said an official of a private hospital.
"Our main target is to become self-sufficient in manufacturing technological equipment within a short time and I believe the response we have received so far regarding ventilators is tremendous."
Even a few years back Bangladesh had only one or two technology companies but now at least nine firms have popped up riding on the policy support the government has provided to the sector.
Palak also praised Walton, which is making the ventilators using the patent and design of Medtronic, an Ireland-based medical device company run by an iconic Bangladeshi expatriate Omar Ishrak.
Of the three types of ventilators Walton is putting up for trials, two were developed using its own technology, officials said.
Another local company named Minister is also making ventilators while the Military Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), an engineering university run by the Bangladesh Armed Forces, has also joined the fray.
Palak said the WPB560 model of the ventilator developed by Walton emulating Medtronic's PB560 model, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, will be technologically sound as Medtronic directly supervised production from its Dhaka and Hyderabad offices.
Medtronic also supplied more than ten components of the ventilator that were not available in Bangladesh.
The government on March 31 received the patent, design and source code for making ventilators from Medtronic, and then moved to manufacture ventilators locally.
Walton is already importing equipment and raw materials for bulk production and these should reach the country within May, according to its Executive Director Golam Murshed.
Liakat Ali, executive director of Walton Group and adviser of the project, said they need the government's support in terms of approval and souring equipment to make the project successful.
"If we can deal with this situation successfully, we can even export ventilators," he said.
Walton also sent some ventilators to the biomedical engineering department of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology for their opinion.