Czech group crowdsources 12 million crowns overnight to build and donate low-cost ventilators

Ventilators made from readily available parts should be available to hospitals in a couple of weeks

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 27.03.2020 14:15 (updated on 27.03.2020)

An online collection to raise money to make ventilators for Czech hospitals and other recipients took in 12.3 million CZK in one day from 7,294 donors, surpassing its goal of 10 million CZK. This collection —launched by, the Czech Technical University (ČVUT), Covid19cz and several Czech firms — is already closed.

The goal is to design ventilators that can be made from readily available parts, so there won’t be any bottlenecks in production. The hope to have the first prototypes ready and certified in a very short time frame, so productions can start and delivery can take place within a couple of weeks. The documentation and codes will be made available so other companies can make the ventilators.

The ventilators made from this project will be delivered to hospitals free of charge.

The people behind the project were surprised by the wave of solidarity. The money collected will be used to produce the first 100 units. The authors of the project are now stopping the collection so they can coordinate with the state and strategically support not only the fight against the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, but also the digitization of Czech industry and help in exporting their innovation abroad.

“We have no words! We did not expect such support. Thanks to this amazing speed and support from nearly 7,000 people, 10 million CZK was collected in less than a day. This is unbelievable and proves the power of great Czech people — not only to find and produce quality instruments, but also to get together and quickly withdraw the money needed to save lives,” Pavel Doležal (Keboola), one of the Covid19cz team, said.

“Thanks to how many people came with help by donating money and how quickly, we got the attention of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. We started negotiations with them this morning. They want to help us strategically cover the project,” he added.

The team working on the project consists of staff of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering of the Czech Technical University, doctors from intensive care units, and specialists in production, pneumatic lines, electronics, logistics and other fields.

Each finished ventilator should cost 100,000 CZK, which is one-fifth of the cost of a typical factory-made ventilator.

The original appeal asked for people to “help save lives of moms, dads, grandfathers and grandmothers.” Serious complications are more often seen in the elderly and people with underlying health issues.

International statistics show that 10-20% of infected people need hospitalization for several weeks, 6% need at least an oxygen mask and a ventilator if available, and 2% do not survive without artificial ventilation.

In countries where the number of infected exceeds the capacity of hospitals, 5-8% of those infected, especially the elderly, die. In many cases, doctors have to choose which patients to attempt to save due to the lack of ventilators.

The Czech Republic currently has about 1,200 ready-to-use ventilators for COVID-19 patients. These highly specialized devices are currently not easy to buy and some countries such as Germany have put an export embargo on them. Together, EU countries now require tens of thousands of ventilators, and there is no source to acquire that number from.