A new high-pressure ventilator developed by engineers at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.

The new ventilator, dubbed VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), has been approved under the FDA’s ventilator Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

NASA has developed the device at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California to address the limited supply of traditional ventilators for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “This FDA authorization is a key milestone in a process that exemplifies the best of what government can do in a time of crisis.

“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.”

NASA is currently providing free license for VITAL through Caltech

Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA, is currently providing free license for VITAL, whose prototype has been previously tested at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, prior to the FDA’s review.

NASA said that the new ventilator can be built rapidly and maintained more easily, compared to other traditional ventilators, and comprises very few parts. Patients are required to be sedated and have an oxygen tube inserted into their airway to use the ventilator.

In addition, the flexible design of VITAL can also be modified for use in field hospitals set up in convention centers, hotels and other high-capacity facilities across the country and around the globe.

Caltech chief innovation and corporate partnerships officer Fred Farina said: “Now that we have a design, we’re working to pass the baton to the medical community, and ultimately patients, as quickly as possible. To that end, we are offering the designs for licensing on a royalty-free basis during the time of the pandemic.”