BVC-19: A Consortium Response to COVID-19

BVC-19 Founding

When it was widely publicized that hospitals were expected to experience a shortage of ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic, UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic faculty quickly teamed up with other research universities and industry from across the United States to address this problem.

UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic’s Drs. Brian Wong, biomedical engineer and surgeon, and Tom Milner, director of the Institute, formed a Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC-19), which included scientists, engineers, medical professional, business executives and regulatory experts and from organizations like the University of Texas, Virgin Orbit, Medline Industries and more.

Recognizing the importance of the forum to those in our community and beyond, Pramod Khargonekar, UCI vice chancellor for research, awarded a seed grant to encourage  BVC-19 development activities.  In addition to the seed grant, a BVC-19 fund was established for UCI Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic to raise private support, as well as from county, state and federal agencies.

BVC-19 Devices

The Consortium was first tasked with the design and construction of a “bridge” ventilator.  The “bridge ventilator” was an inexpensive, easy-to-manufacture device for use when intensive care units (ICU) were overwhelmed and no standard ICU ventilators were available for patients undergoing respiratory failure.  The BVC-19 bridge breathing devices used widely available artificial manual breathing units (AMBU) bags that are commonly used for emergency manual ventilation of patients.

Virgin Orbit, a satellite delivery company in Southern California within the Virgin Group, launched a program to manufacture and supply CamBu bridge breathing units to fill potential shortages.  In addition, The Cockrell  School of Engineering and the Dell Medical School in Austin, Texas developed an Assisted Bag Breathing Unit or ABBU.  The ABBU device was manufactured to address ventilator shortages in the local Austin and surrounding areas.

All efforts were encouraged and supported by BVC-19 participants.  Daily online meetings were held that regularly included fifty or more participants.  After the ventilator effort was launched, anecdotal reports from Italy and Spain suggested COVID-19 patients without severely compromised lung compliance may respond better with a bubble or mask device.  The bubble or mask device provided incoming oxygen and rapidly removed aerosolized particles.  Various negative pressure bubble enclosures, CPAP and BiPAP devices were developed, presented and critiqued daily on the BVC-19 forum.

BVC-19 Diagnostic Imaging and Therapies

The creation of numerous assisted breathing units and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been incubated, critiqued and group-sourced from BVC-19 in an open, voluntary and inclusive forum environment.  Today, the Consortium’s outlook is directed toward the development of longer-term diagnostic and treatment strategies – particularly those that utilize light.