How Fermilab is Helping in the Fight Against COVID-19

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How Fermilab is Helping

Researchers at Batavia-based Fermilab have switched gears from building and running delicate detectors to building a device for delicate lungs.

Mechanical Ventilator Milano

The Mechanical Ventilator Milano, or MVM, has been a worldwide project that started on March 19 in Italy to help build a simplified ventilator in the fight against COVID-19.

Around 15 Fermilab scientists and researchers pitched in to help.

“Since we’re used to working with complicated gas systems for very delicate detectors, why can’t we translate that information to working with a machine that can push gases gently into a human and help them?” said Fermilab neutrino scientist, Jennifer Raaf.

After the hard work of scientists, engineers, and medical doctors around the world, the FDA approved the ventilator on May 1.

The MVM is under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization, meaning it will only be used if there is a shortage of commercial ventilators at hospitals.

The new machine can serve two purposes – full ventilation of a patient, and breathing support.

“As you might imagine there are a lot of different aspects to this project. There’s the hardware design, there’s software to control the hardware. There’s documentation of all of these features and what the machine can do,” said Raaf. “And Fermilab people have been involved in all of the aspects of it.”

Raaf worked with the medical device manufacturer to bring together everything needed for FDA approval. A Fermilab scientist also helped with testing the prototype with a breathing simulator.

Preparing Computing Clusters

Another way the particle physics laboratory is helping in the fight against COVID-19 – preparing computing clusters which are sets of connected computers to use as COVID-19 research machines.

Working remotely, biologists can access the computers to help them figure out a drug treatment for COVID-19.

They look at how virus proteins interact with receptors on cells in the respiratory system.

“There was a need. And I thought ‘well if there’s a need and we have competency at our lab to help out, then of course we’re going to want to do everything we can,’” said Elizabeth Sexton-Kennedy, Chief Information Officer at Fermilab.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.


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