Just a week after its formal launch, the Mass General Brigham COVID Innovation Center has made significant strides in identifying viable ways to increase the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators available to health care workers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and beyond.

Devices such as PPE and ventilators are one of four areas of need related to the COVID-19 pandemic that are being tackled by various working groups within the center. The three other divisions will address challenges related to diagnostics, therapeutics, and data.

During a town hall presentation on March 31, 2020, center co-director Gary Tearney, MD, PhD, reported on the advances made by the devices group, which was the first to launch last week.

The devices division of the center is composed of eight working groups, four of which are tackling PPE, one focused on PPE decontamination, another on ventilators for patient use, a group developing swabs and a final group validating device design and evaluating safety.

The reuse working group has identified a viable method for using hydrogen peroxide vapor to decontaminate used N95 masks for reuse. A team is now setting up space at Mass General’s Simches Research Center to start implementing the process.

Progress has also been made in efforts related to developing new personal protective equipment.

  • The face shields subgroup has identified two viable designs that can be mass produced and disseminated that are currently undergoing clinical testing
  • The surgical mask team has multiple viable options that they are now testing
  • The N95 respirator masks subgroup has identified two promising designs and is now developing testing and validation protocols
  • The ventilator subgroup has also identified 3D printed prototypes that could be produced within the timeframe of the COVID-19 surge

The full body protection group is exploring a prototype plexiglass booth that could be used to provide extra protection during patient screenings, as well as a patient isolation hood that could be used for medical procedures likely to aerosolize a virus.

A validation working group functions closely with each of the device subgroups to identify the protocols needed to validate the proposed solutions. It’s crucial that any new device produced by the center provides sufficient protection for medical providers and patients. 

Dr. Tearney, an investigator in Mass General’s Wellman Center for Photomedicine, is leading the center along with David Walt, PhD, from BWH. Tearney said the center has come together with remarkable speed, with more than 60 full time employees from Mass General supporting its operations and 150-200 people in each working group.

“I would be remiss if I didn't say that there are many other people involved in this process, including incident command at Mass General and now at Brigham and Women's Hospital,” he added.

“In addition, many, many people across the system have been helping and supporting the working groups. With all of this help and support, we believe all of these groups will have products ready for mass production and deployment in the upcoming weeks.”

Interested in joining a working group? Learn more on the MGB COVID Innovation Center website.