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FDA Approves NASA’s VITAL Under EUA to Combat COVID-19; Jim Bridenstine, Michelle Easter Quoted

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NASA engineers have developed a new high-pressure ventilator to treat COVID-19 patients and it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for under the ventilator Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), the administration announced on Friday.

"This FDA authorization is a key milestone in a process that exemplifies the best of what government can do in a time of crisis," said NASA Administrator and 2019 Wash100 Award recipient, Jim Bridenstine. "This ventilator is one of countless examples of how taxpayer investments in space exploration – the skills, expertise and knowledge collected over decades of pushing boundaries and achieving firsts for humanity – translate into advancements that improve life on Earth."

Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL) was developed by engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California to lift the nation's limited supply of traditional ventilators so they may be used on patients with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships at Caltech will offer a free license for VITAL and will out to the commercial medical industry to find manufacturers for the device.

The EUA will enable device use for COVID-19 patients to address the acute demand for ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic. VITAL will require patients to be sedated and have an oxygen tube inserted into their airway to breathe.

Prior to the FDA's review, the VITAL prototype passed a critical test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. VITAL poses several benefits in the national response to COVID-19. 

It can be built faster than a traditional ventilator and is composed of far fewer parts that are currently available to potential manufacturers through existing supply chains. Its flexible design can be modified for use in field hospitals being set up in convention centers, hotels and other high-capacity facilities. The new device wouldn't replace current hospital ventilators.

"It's been exhilarating coming up with VITAL's design," said Michelle Easter, a mechatronics engineer at JPL who worked on developing the device. "Now that we have FDA approval, we're looking forward to seeing companies license this technology and share it with the rest of the world."

About NASA

NASA's legacy of human space exploration, research and technology development has yielded countless innovations that prove the direct and profound impact of taxpayer investment in America's space program on our quality of life on Earth, including improved technologies for water purification, air filtration, kidney dialysis and tele-medicine, as well as research that has led to improved vaccines, drug therapies, and mitigations for bone loss. 

We can only speculate as to the breadth of transformative benefits that will come from America's return to the Moon through NASA's Artemis program and our efforts to put the first humans on Mars.