Innovation leads to new PPE respirator to keep healthcare workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic

The University of Manchester, in collaboration with staff in the Intensive Care Unit of Wythenshawe Hospital and consultancy Designing Science Ltd, has developed the novel Bubble PAPR. Bubble is a Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR), designed to enhance safety for healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Identifying an urgent need for better PPE 

Wythenshawe Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), Designing Science Ltd and the University are part of an ongoing collaboration to identify unmet clinical needs. During the pandemic the partnership quickly identified an urgent need for improved personal protective equipment (PPE).

Our colleagues at Designing Science Ltd and the University of Manchester asked what they could do to help frontline staff during the pandemic. My answer was better PPE, and the result is an innovative new product that protects staff and really helps our patients.

Brendan McGrath / Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine, Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Improving safety and communication for staff and patients

The team secured funding from the University’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Impact Acceleration Account, MFT and MIMIT Health/Manchester Oxford Road Corridor to prototype a low cost, ergonomic and highly functional PPE respirator, named Bubble PAPR. Bubble was designed to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus to healthcare workers while also improving the quality of critical communication between staff and vastly improving overall patient experience.

This project demonstrates the power of bringing together frontline clinicians, designers and academics to solve pressing clinical challenges.

Patrick Hall / Managing Director, Designing Science Ltd

Expanding the reach of Bubble PAPR

Bubble PAPR underwent a robust process of user centred design, engineering optimisation, feasibility testing, regulatory compliance, and intellectual property protection to ensure the product was ready for use in the wider market. The partnership secured a commercial agreement with GAMA Healthcare – a dynamic, innovative UK company at the forefront of infection prevention technology. GAMA Healthcare’s global reach will produce Bubble PAPR in large volumes with the intention to have the respirator widely available for frontline staff by early 2022.

It was a real privilege to work in a multidisciplinary team and play a part to help develop this product, which will provide a safer environment for clinicians to combat the Covid-19 crisis.

Dr Glen Cooper / Senior Lecturer School of Engineering, the University of Manchester