WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg company’s ventilator design could be a critical part of the battle against COVID-19.

Cerebra Health Inc. announced Thursday the ‘Winnipeg Ventilator’ has been picked as the ventilator of choice by Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster. It was chosen by a national consortium of leading engineers and manufacturers as part of the federal government’s response to COVID-19.

Starfish Medical, Canada’s largest medical device design company, will lead the first phase of the project. The goal is to provide a solution to the shortage of ventilators.

“Canada needs a solution to bring ICU standard ventilators to the market fast, economically and at a scale to meet the needs of this crisis,” said Jay Myers, CEO of NGen Canada, in a statement. “The Winnipeg Ventilator has proven world-wide to meet those requirements as seen through its broad use and validation by the scientific community.” 

Dr. Madgy Younes, Cerebra’s scientific founder, developed the original Winnipeg Ventilator. The design was licensed and used as the basis for commercial ventilators throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The units were also used during the 2003 SARS epidemic.

“The nature of respiratory distress in patients with COVID-19 requires different approaches to ventilatory support in different patients, and in the same patient at different times,” Younes said in a statement. “This means the ventilator must be able to deliver a range of ventilator modes and oxygen concentrations of up to 100%. While all standard commercial ICU ventilators meet these requirements, it is very difficult to manufacture such ventilators at the scale and speed required for the COVID-19 pandemic and they are very expensive.”

“Now is the time for Canadian companies to work together,” said Earl Gardiner, executive chairman of Cerebra, in a statement. “We’re proud to bring Dr. Younes’ innovation to meet this urgent need and to do so with the support of NGen and some of Canada’s leading medical device manufacturing companies. The project scope and timelines would not have been possible without NGen funding .”