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Medical student from Johns Creek wants to make ventilators more accessible

ajc.com

City and state officials across the U.S. have said they have a sufficient number of ventilators for the pandemic but a Johns Creek resident, who is also a medical student, is focused on a possible escalation of the coronavirus disease later this year. Varun Yarabarla is part of a nonprofit group of physicians and engineers trying to raise up to $1 million to produce low cost ventilators for hospitals, acute care facilities and nonprofit organizations that provide disaster relief.

Yarabarla is a third year medical student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Suwanee and a biomedical engineering graduate of Georgia Tech. He is among 12 on a team working to launch VentLife ventilators for review boards at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Cincinnati, and the Mayo Clinic. That would be followed by clinical trials and manufacturing, Yarabarla said.

The team members are spread out geographically from Cincinnati to Georgia and California where Glen Meyerowitz, an engineer and graduate student at UCLA, began brainstorming the medical device after the start of the pandemic in March.

VentLife ventilators would be effective in about 80% of medical cases, Yarabarla said.  He foresees a continued need for ventilators for the next two years.

“We realized we could go a step further than Tesla and General Motors in pushing out ventilators,” he said.

Patrick Daly M.D., a Jacksonville, Florida cardiologist and VentLife team member, said the ventilators are designed with different valves that have the same functions and effectiveness as traditional ventilators. They cost up to $5,000 each compared to as much as $50,000 for many machines, he added.

“We would like to produce at least 500 to 1000 ventilators immediately and ramp up with demand,” Daly said.

VentLife group members are participating in accelerator programs for the ventilator at the University of Cincinnati and the National Science Foundation that Yarabarla and Daly said will provide a total of $55,000 and introductions with investors.

So far, VentLife has raised about $12,000 through the organization website and an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, Yarabarla and Daly said.

Yarabarla is a former Fulbright Research Scholar and a nominee for the Georgia Tech Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 program for 2020, which recognizes innovators and people to watch .

The Johns Creek resident said the ventilator project brings together his knowledge from Georgia Tech and medical school.

“It gives a good meaning to everything I’ve done,” he said.