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New life supporting medical device developed by Ulster University and Armstrong Medical

Armstrong Medical, a specialist manufacturer of anaesthesia and critical care products, has commercialised an innovative respiratory breathing circuit for life support ventilation […]

July 1, 2021

Armstrong Medical, a specialist manufacturer of anaesthesia and critical care products, has commercialised an innovative respiratory breathing circuit for life support ventilation that was developed in collaboration with Ulster University through the North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (NWCAM).

NWCAM is funded by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB)and delivered in partnership with Catalyst, Northern Ireland’s science and technology innovation hub.

Coleraine-based Armstrong Medical launched its AquaVENT® VT breathing circuit just prior to the WHO’s declaration of the global coronavirus pandemic.  AquaVENT® VT benefits from R&D generated through the NWCAM collaboration which developed a novel method of production of tubing used to create a ‘breathable’ expiratory limb. The research enabled Armstrong Medical to significantly reduce the risks associated with pooling of condensed water vapour in tubing.  The innovative step also minimised the interference by moisture on sensitive electronics on ventilators, relieving hospital caregivers of some aspects of the continuous monitoring of the equipment in use.

This technology has now been incorporated in a number of critical care ventilator circuits for adult, paediatric and neonatal patients who require assistance with their breathing. By expanding the range of breathing circuits and electromedical devices Armstrong Medical supplies to hospital intensive care units, they were able to respond rapidly to global demand for these critical respiratory devices as caregivers around the globe scrambled to secure the means by which to treat COVID-19 patients.

Since first launching in early 2020, the product has been used in a number of countries and helped to alleviate pressures for equipment during the Covid-19 crisis.

Founded in 1984, Armstrong Medical now exports to more than 60 countries. In an average year, products produced in its facility outside Coleraine are used on an estimated 7.5 million patients for anaesthesia and the resuscitation and respiratory support for 65,000 babies and 35,000 adults. The company, now part of the Eakin Healthcare Group, has significant plans to scale and diversify their product portfolio to ensure improved patient outcomes.

Dr Ciarán Magee, Armstrong Medical’s Technical Director, said: “The NWCAM project has given us access to external teams in Ulster University and Catalyst. Both teams helped us to look in depth at how we applied existing manufacturing processes to specialist polymers and helped us arrive at an end-product which addresses a long-standing limitation of products we marketed for many years. 

“The introduction of this superior product will add significant value to Armstrong’s expanding portfolio of pioneering products to ensure improved patient outcomes in a critical illness setting. The new product allows us to focus on the area of life-support ventilation for adult, paediatric and neonatal patients. We expect demand to increase in coming months, particularly in emerging markets.”

Dr Dorian Dixon and his team collaborated with Armstrong Medical in developing and testing a new polymer formulation for the expiratory limb of their ventilation tubing.

Dr Dixon said: “It has been very rewarding to work with Armstrong Medical on this technically challenging project and great to see the product successfully launched on to the market.”

Fergal Cosgrave from Ulster University said: “The Ulster University team are thrilled that they have been able to help Armstrong Medical save time and money by bringing their R&D expertise to the production of a new product that solves a big problem and ultimately improves its life saving breathing circuits for the benefit of patients around the world.”

NWCAM Innovation Broker, Dr Oonagh Lynch, added: “The collaboration between Armstrong Medical and Ulster University through NWCAM has created real value and competitive advantage for the company. Armstrong Medical creates products that play a key part in life-saving treatment of very sick patients and it is very rewarding for us to see them improving outcomes and saving lives through their involvement with the NWCAM partnership.

“Giving innovative companies access to academic expertise within universities and research institutes has been a key goal of NWCAM and we look forward to announcing similar successes in some of our other projects throughout the year.”

The North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, an EU Interreg VA collaborative R&D programme was developed to link research capability to industrial challenges using advanced manufacturing within the Life and Health Science sector within Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland. Led by Catalyst and delivered through four academic and ten industrial partners, the consortium facilitates and co-ordinates collaborative research and innovation.

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Photo caption: Pictured marking the success of the AquaVENT® VT breathing circuit at Armstrong Medical’s headquarters in Coleraine are Dr Ciarán Magee from Armstrong Medical, Dr Thomas Dooher, Dr Dorian Dixon, Ulster University, Dr Oonagh Lynch, NWCAM and Jawad Ullah, Ulster University.

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