Funded - the first $50,000 for US "Bubble Helmet" maker to ramp up production
Updated: Jul 23
Hospitals will need helmets for COVID-19 but they don’t know it.
We’ve collaborated with a team from Oregon to help ramp up the production of helmets for ventilation in the US to meet a supply that hospitals don’t even know they will need because of COVID-19.
Frank Selker, his brother John Selker, who is a professor at the University of Oregon, along with a couple of other people form the Oregon team. They reached out to the sole US manufacturer of helmets, Sea-Long Medical Systems Inc. Christopher Austin, an owner of the Texas-based medical manufacturer, would like to increase production, but he needs a big order. On a regular basis, Sea-Long can produce 250 helmets per week.
John Selker said his group has secured $50,000 from a private firm to cover startup expenses, and the firm has committed another $1 million to order 6,000 helmets in advance from Sea-Long. This should lead the company to reach a 5,000-helmet-per-week production level in one month.
The Selker brothers’ team connected with our team as we both looked for alternatives to utilize other noninvasive ventilation options for COVID-19 patients in times when ventilator and ICU bed shortages will hit the US. Hospitals in other countries, such as Italy, have been inundated with patients in respiratory distress, filling ICU beds beyond capacity. Those who are hospitalized with acute respiratory distress need ventilation to help them breathe and recover.
Hospitals in Europe often use helmets for ventilation, including Italy, Lithuania and Germany. Helmets especially are helpful with COVID-19 because when used with an antiviral/antibacterial filter they reduce the likelihood of transmission of coronavirus to others.
Helmets are produced mostly in Italy for the European market.
Hospital staff in the US aren’t as familiar with helmets. Helmets have been tested successfully in the US, but they haven’t been widely used.
Their team and ours are not-for-profit groups looking to help clinicians prepare for and deal with the medical crisis that coronavirus presents. We are collaborating to get information to clinicians, connect hospitals with resources and increase production to meet a growing need.
Hospital staff members may not know about the helmets, but they are interested when they learn about them. “They do see the problem coming,” Frank Selker said.
Now it’s necessary to stimulate demand among others who don’t know about the helmets, Frank Selker said.
“If hospitals have some understanding,” Frank Selker said about using helmets and finding alternatives to traditional ventilation, they would be interested. “There’s nothing more persuasive than running out of ventilators. (Hospital staff are) going to be quite interested,” he said.
“There’s nothing more persuasive than running out of ventilators. (Hospital staff are) going to be quite interested,”
Sea-Long wasn’t in a position to increase production 100 times or even 10 times to meet the anticipated demand by hospitals for helmets, Frank Selker said.
“(Christopher Austin) could double production, but it won’t be what’s needed,” Frank Selker said. “In order to scale production to 10 times or 100 times, he needs a big order.”
That’s where the private firm money comes in. The Selkers’ team can help prepare Sea-Long to ramp up production and provide a buffer for the small business in the busy time ahead.
Additionally, they are making advances in the helmets to improve performance prior to production.
The Selkers and their team are looking for other manufacturers who can begin the production of helmets.
This is what Selkers team from Oregon achieved in the last 4 days :
A private firm has given $50,000 to cover startup expenses and also committed $1 million to order paid-in-advance 6,000 helmets from Sea-Long. This should lead them to 5,000- helmet-per-week production level in one month. An MBA mechanical engineering person is visiting Sea-Long today to fulfill due diligence and give us a green light to fulfill the order.
Six videos are shot to support outreach. They are being reviewed by the team before they are released.
We have a survey of demand out to the medical staff to show a need. Today we have over 1,000 orders from medical professionals.
We’ve made two significant advances in updating Sea-Long helmets with improved performance. Testing it today! Videos here
We have a parallel track to develop a molding machine to reach 100,000 units per week level.