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McMaster graduate has developed affordable solution to counter world-wide shortage of ventilators

Dayo Olakulehin, a medical doctor, innovator and graduate of McMaster’s Master of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, knows first-hand what a world without adequate ventilators looks like. In 2012, he was working as a doctor in Nigeria when he developed the idea for a low-cost, low-tech piece of equipment to help critically ill patients who need respiratory support. His company LigandCorp now develops and promotes medical devices for use in developing nations around the world.

Q: Can you briefly describe the D-Box and why you believe it is an innovation the world needs right now? What was the inspiration for the invention?

A: I was working as a doctor in a very busy emergency room in Nigeria and saw the challenge that lack of ventilators posed to health workers. We would manually squeeze AMBU bags for hours to keep our patients alive, and then hand over to colleagues to continue squeezing the bags.

Our solution, a portable battery-operated device called the D-Box (Dayo's-box) was developed in 2016 and was listed in the World Health Organization’s Compendium of innovative solutions for resource-limited settings. 

Q: What success have you had in getting the device into the hands of people who need it? Has the pandemic sparked interest in the product?

A: COVID-19 has definitely sparked global interest in our solution.

We have developed an improved version called LifeAir G1. It is a robust and sophisticated automatic resuscitator that does more than bag squeezing. It offers tidal volume control, respiratory rate adjustments, Inspiratory/Expiratory ratio options (I/E ratio) also offering pressure sensors and alarm systems. Designed to be affordable for health facilities in developing countries, we believe this will be a game changer.

Our solution ensures that no one will have to manually squeeze a bag in this pandemic, or any time afterwards.

Q: What is your advice for students in this unprecedented time?

A: Understand that the world you were being prepared for has drastically changed. That can potentially be a source of immense stress but should be embraced as an innovation challenge. The new normal will require constant rapid innovation and brutal flexibility. It will be challenging, but it will also be exciting.

Take care of yourselves, take care of your physical health, take care of your mental health, and become deliberate problem solvers, not reactive ones. Most importantly, maximize the wealth of support available to you within the alumni community, and I'm hopeful that some of the best innovations of the decade will come from Mac!