A new ventilator specifically designed for COVID-19 patients has been designed in Ballarat, Victoria with manufacturing of the device to begin within weeks.
Built by Gekko Systems, the ventilator is easy to use, highly robust and can be transported and used in regional and more remote environments.
The move into ventilator manufacturing is a major pivot for Gekko, which was founded in the mid-1990s to build mining equipment.
Gekko will harness local suppliers and its 100-strong workforce to build the GeVentor ventilator, which co-founder Sandy Gray designed in his shed with the help of local anaesthetist Doug Paxton.
Health Purchasing Victoria has placed an order for 170 ventilators with Gekko Systems after the company's machine was provided with a production exemption from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The speed at which the final product was designed and developed at is a testament to the proven agility of Victorian manufacturers according to the state's Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula.
"Creating a local ventilator industry in a matter of just months is testament to the excellence and agility of Victorian manufacturers," says Pakula.
"We have seen an amazing response to the challenges posed by the pandemic and that has helped to shore up jobs and place the state in the best position possible to recover once the health crisis is behind us."
In addition to the order from Health Purchasing Victoria, Gekko has reported interest in its ventilator from humanitarian organisations for potential use in developing countries.
Following the successful development of the GeVentor, Gekko has now created a medical arm of the company to produce a range of equipment to supply local, national and international markets.
"The Gekko group of companies is delighted to have designed and developed the GeVentor ventilator and, as a result, to launch a start-up medical technology company, Gekko Medical, in regional Victoria," says Gekko Systems chair and co-founder Elizabeth Lewis-Gray.
The Victorian Government provided development grants to Gekko Systems and three other groups in the early stages of the pandemic.
Health Purchasing Victoria has also placed orders for 200 ventilators that are being produced by Grey Innovation. The company established a consortium of local companies to build its transportable Notus Vivere Emergency Ventilator, with components coming from manufacturers ANCA, Marand, Hosico, Bosch Australia and Hydrix.
Grey Innovation is also producing machines under licence to fill an order from the Commonwealth Government.
Two other Victorian companies, Planet Innovation and Compumedics, are in the final stages of the TGA process for their ventilators.
Updated at 2:15pm AEST on 1 September 2020.