EnMed produces an N95 alternative as first real time assignment
Thursday, March 26, 2020 - As cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) increase and leaders across the nation put out a call for personal protective equipment for health care workers, Houston Methodist is working with its engineering partners at Texas A&M University to devise solutions. Faculty from EnMed, in collaboration with clinical colleagues at Houston Methodist, have been busy designing a safe and efficient alternative to conventional N95 masks.
Their goal was to create a 3D-printed alternative with N95 functionality to address the present N95 mask shortage. The alternative mask employs commercial grade material produced from a type of plastic that is autoclavable, allowing sterilization for reuse. Air filtration is through an N95 material insert that is smaller than a full mask allowing more efficient use of standard sized mask material. The team's progress has been quick. Initially, designs for five different masks were submitted from EnMed faculty from the College of Engineering at Texas A&M.
Currently, they are moving forward with prototyping for the most promising mask. The preliminary prototype was demoed on March 25, and is now undergoing a second version of modification, to include improvements on fit, manufacturability and reusability.
“We are working diligently to optimize the design and expect to print prototypes soon,” said Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD, CEO of Engineering Health (EnHealth), executive dean for Engineering Medicine at Texas A&M and adjunct professor of nanomedicine, Houston Methodist Center for Cardiovascular Regeneration. “Then we will begin the important next step of testing for clinical level functionality and assessing sterilization processes for multiple usage.”
While the initial focus was on prototyping, a plan is being devised to roll-out the masks for clinical adoption with partners through EnMed, Houston Methodist and other stakeholders locally, as well as others who may need help finding alternatives to these valuable resources.
The project is a collaboration between Pettigrew; Mike Moreno, PhD, assistant professor and director of innovation for EnMed, Texas A&M University College of Engineering; Firas Zabaneh, director of system infection prevention & control at Houston Methodist; Travis Tingle, Houston Methodist director of sterile processing, Houston Methodist; and Dirk Sostman, MD, chief academic officer, Houston Methodist.
EnMed, the nation’s first and only program designed to offer both an MD and a master’s in engineering in four years, is a collaborative endeavor between Texas A&M’s College of Engineering, College of Medicine and Houston Methodist.