The Omaha medical technology pipeline responds to COVID-19 - UNeTech Institute

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Omaha Medical Technology Pipeline shifted its focus. Instead of fostering innovation to improve the future of medical care the Pipeline allocated its resources to protect healthcare providers — right now.  

Fellows sponsored by the Omaha Medical Technology Pipeline at the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology at Metro Community College supervised the manufacturing of personal protective equipment. “I learned valuable rapid prototyping skills hands-on while working with a supportive team of UNMC and MCC employees volunteering time outside of their “normal” work during the COVID-19 crisis to quickly produce over 12,000 medical face shields for Omaha area Hospitals” – Noah Wester, Prototype Lab Technician, UNeTech Fellow.  

Protecting clinical personnel is more than supplying them with the best technology today. Although most of the other labs in the Omaha area closed for the Pandemic, Metro remained open. As a result, students were able to continue prototyping and development during the outbreak 

Working closely with a team of Emergency Department doctors and nurses, MCC students prototyped a novel device to limit nurse exposure when collecting specimens to test for coronavirus. This new device went from a concept to a functional prototype in less than a month! The lessons learned from this crisis will inform a new generation of medical technology and now is the time to capture that innovation for the benefit of future clinicians. 

“In times of uncertainty such as now, having the expertise and resources available at MCC is critical in promoting innovation capable of changing our course. In working with Noah Wester, our team was able to rapidly prototype and test a potential home test solution for respiratory pathogens. This type of collaboration is vital in our battle against COVID-19.” Thanh Nguyen, ER Nurse, Nebraska Medicine. 

Finally, Innovation can come from surprising places. A team of local entrepreneurs that work with motors and generators are teaming with the Omaha Medical Technology Pipeline to build a novel respirator. UNMC will use its world leading infectious disease laboratory to evaluate the prototype device’s efficacy in killing aerosolized virus. The technology, if validated, could dramatically improve safety for medical staff and first responder and simplify the supply chain for respirators worldwide.  

The program never anticipated an event like the COVID-19 Outbreak. The resources of the Omaha Medical Technology Pipeline have been essential for creating the products that will protect clinicians today and the technology that twill protect them tomorrow.