Virgin Orbit Seeks FDA OK For New Ventilator Design

Virgin Orbit has developed a new, mass-producible bridge ventilator that is pending clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fight the novel coronavirus.

One problem facing the medical community is that oftentimes only intensive care ventilators are available for patients who do not need high-end equipment because they have partially recovered or do not need acute care. By supplying these bridge ventilators, the high-end equipment can be saved for patients who are in desperate need. 

The company did not tackle developing the new technology alone. Virgin Orbit consulted with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), led by the University of California Irvine and the University of Texas at Austin. The company first contacted California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office last week offering to help tackle the global pandemic. Virgin Orbit was directed to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority and put in contact with BVC.

The group formed to nurture efforts focused on constructing simple ventilators to combat COVID-19.

Virgin Orbit intends to produce the new ventilators at its Long Beach, California, manufacturing facility in early April, once cleared by the FDA. The company is also prepared to “activate other manufacturers” to reproduce the device. 

 “On a normal day, we’re building rockets and other equipment for space launch. We are not medical doctors nor are we usually manufacturers of medical devices,” a company statement said. “But we do have a team of incredibly innovative and agile thinkers—experts in designing, fabricating, programming, testing—who are eager to lend a hand.”

Lee Hudson

Based in Washington, Lee covers the Pentagon for Aviation Week. Prior to joining Aviation Week in June 2018, Lee was at Inside Defense where she was managing editor for Inside the Navy.