Honoris United Universities develops 3D-printed respirator and potentially lifesaving diagnostics and equipment in support of global efforts to combat COVID-19

Tunis / Casablanca / Durban, 8th April 2020

Teams of scientists, doctors, engineers, students and professionals from Honoris United Universities, the first and largest pan-African network of private higher education institutions, have developed a prototype for a new non-invasive respirator, as well as face shields and splash protection masks, which can be affordably and quickly manufactured via 3D printing. The teams have also developed innovative testing and pharmaceutical interventions during a pan-African hackathon.

During this period of unprecedented strain on global healthcare systems, governments and hospitals are calling for solutions that will address the shortage of ventilators and other critical equipment to save lives during the pandemic.

In an act of solidarity, Université Centrale in Tunisia, a member institution of the Honoris network, has partnered with Digital Industry Tools Expert (DITEX), which brings together the expertise of Dassault Systems, Université de Lorraine in France and industrial engineering company TECH-3D. Together, the team has successfully produced a non-invasive ventilation system that can be made using commonly accessible and inexpensive components, making it affordable and easy to produce globally. A team of doctors from within the Honoris network including Chadli Dziri, MD, a leading surgeon and director of the Honoris Medical Simulation Center in Tunisia, and his colleague Dr. Mamoun Ben Cheikh, an anesthesiologist, also consulted on the design of the ventilator.

The ventilator design, which is an open-source software without patent, can be used by countries around the world. The non-invasive kit includes a protective face mask, 3D-printed, that connects to an electric insufflator – the body of which can also be 3D printed. Attached to the insufflator is an oxygen tank that delivers a predetermined, fixed concentration of oxygen.

Project lead, Professor Nidhal Rezg, sponsor of the idea at the Polytechnic Engineering School of Université Centrale / DITEX – Université de Lorraine said, “We have collaborated with some of the very best and highly skilled engineers, scientists, researchers and medical professionals within our network and academic partners to rise to the challenge and create a device that can potentially save lives in the fight against COVID-19. It was critical to ensure it was affordable, easy and quick to produce and most importantly available to everyone. The device can be easily duplicated in different countries in Africa and around the world using software that can be downloaded – and it comes with a free instruction manual for ease of use. It has also been designed to be used in both a hospital and a home setting.”

Also, within the Honoris network, three healthcare innovations from École Marocaine des Sciences de l’Ingénieur (EMSI) – the largest engineering school in Morocco, have been selected in a pan-African hackathon (Marocovid 19) involving students, start-ups, entrepreneurs, professors and engineers. There were 10 winners in total, all of which will be virtually incubated by Hack & Pitch and Start-up La Factory – leading incubators in Morocco that accelerate innovation by supporting collaboration between tech start-ups and corporates.

The three winners included ‘African Saviour’, which uses drones to deploy nasal swabs and other coronavirus diagnostic kit to medics across remote rural areas. The diagnostic pack carried by the drone will include a hydroalcoholic gel and gloves, both of which are single use. When the drone returns, it will only have to carry the sample, which will be in a sterilized bag, and the drone will have to go through a disinfection point as soon as it returns.

The other two winners include a ‘Digital System Medical Respiratory’ system. It communicates a patient’s vital signs and medical needs in real-time through a digital platform that connects monitoring hardware –such as air pressure regulation – to communicate a patient’s status to a relevant healthcare professional to avoid any kind of direct contact for monitoring.

The third EMSI winner, the ‘Moroccan Electronic Prescription (MeP)’ smartphone platform, allows a doctor to create and validate prescriptions that a patient can then collect from the pharmacy using a unique QR code. This reduces doctor-patient contact, potentially saving the lives of much-needed medics on the front line.

In South Africa, REGENT Business School also part of the Honoris network, has produced face shields and splash protection masks using 3D printed parts in its three iLeadLABs – in Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town – and is distributing them at no cost to select public healthcare facilities. “The first batch was printed in a matter of days and production hasn’t stopped since,” said Dr. Ahmed Shaikh, Managing Director of REGENT Business School. He added, “The true grit of a nation is revealed during times of crisis, like this one. We are facing an undeniably powerful adversary – and an invisible one at that. REGENT Business School is grateful to be able to meaningfully contribute to the fight against COVID-19 by producing and donating life-saving essential gear.”

Honoris United Universities CEO, Luis Lopez, praised the mission, speed and collaborative intelligence of the teams. “The communities of Honoris and their partners have responded to the calls for support from governments and healthcare professionals in identifying new solutions in the fight against COVID-19. I strongly commend the teams for the collaboration and rapid development of affordable and accessible solutions. I applaud the commitments the Honoris organizations are undertaking and I am proud of them and our colleagues in these endeavors, and in our efforts around remote learning and remote working. Honoris’ Education for Impact mission is powerfully meaningful as we come together in these pursuits.”