HIHI PI and Director of the Translational Medical Device Laboratory at NUI Galway,Dr Martin O’Halloran,awarded rapid response funding

News | Posted on: 29 April, 2020

Equipment to make it easier and safer for patients with COVID-19 to breathe

Lead Researchers: Professor Martin O’Halloran and Professor John Laffey, NUI Galway

Science Foundation Ireland award €205,667


The virus that causes COVID-19 attacks the airways and lungs, which means that people who are ill with the virus can have trouble breathing.

There are pieces of equipment to help these patients, including machines to assist their breathing, and tubes to deliver a flow of oxygen into their nose. Because of COVID-19 though, such equipment is in short supply, and in the case of high-flow oxygen, it may put the attending healthcare workers at greater risk of being exposed to the virus.

A new project led by NUI Galway called INSPIRE will develop new and easy-to-manufacture equipment to help support patients with airway problems while minimising the risk to healthcare workers.

What is the issue?

Patients with COVID-19 who are severely ill often need help to breathe, but equipment to do this is in short supply, and some may increase the risk of the virus spreading to healthcare workers.

What will the research project do?

The INSPIRE project led by NUI Galway will develop a CPAP/BiPAP Hood that can help patients to breathe and that will be easy to manufacture and reuse, and comfortable for patients to use for long periods.

For patients receiving high-flow oxygen therapy, the project will also develop a vacuum-assisted face guard that will collect infectious droplets coming from the patient’s nose or mouth during treatment, reducing the infection risk for healthcare workers.

The initiative will involve an interdisciplinary team of academic researchers, MedTech engineers, frontline healthcare professionals and industry working together to develop these technologies.

What will the potential impact be?

By developing breathing-support equipment that is easy to manufacture and safe to use for patients with COVID-19, the project will reduce risk of infection to front-line healthcare staff and may help reduce the demand on more invasive, mechanical ventilators for patients.

Dr Martin O’Halloran, Director of the Translational Medical Device Laboratory at NUI Galway, says:

This project shows what can be achieved when industry, academia and the HSE come together with a common goal of saving lives during the COVID-19 crisis. Uniquely, the Inspire team is composed of several founders of Irish MedTech companies, a team of NUI Galway researchers, and clinicians and healthcare workers from UHG. The glue holding this diverse team together is a shared commitment to making a real and tangible impact on patient care.”

Originally published by Department of the Taoiseach. Full award list here