In the middle of a global health pandemic, sometimes the stars align for an invention at UNMC, the perfect collaboration of creative innovation and local business that lead to the creation of a new product that can change the way medical services are provided to people in need. That’s exactly what happened when Doctors Nicholas Markin and Steven Lisco, who created the Infectious Aerosol Capture Mask, and Tyler Keffeler vice president at Omaha Custom Manufacturing (OCM) came together this spring.
The Infectious Aerosol Capture Mask is a new three-piece respiration mask that keeps healthcare providers and those in the vicinity of the patient safe.
“This pandemic highlighted a lot of things we just did not think about before. We took for granted that as a doctor, you were going to be exposing yourself to risk without really thinking about what that meant,” UNeMed Licensing Specialist Tyler Scherr said. “Our new mask collects virus particles off of infected patients who are intubated, without them shedding those particles into the hospital room, without exposing hospital staff.”
Currently, the mask consists of three pieces: a face shield, a viral filter, and an adapter. Keffeler said OCM has been able to step in and assist by producing the custom adaptor component, which allows the viral filter to connect on the suction tubing. What started as a 3D-printed piece is now created with a custom mold by OCM for quicker mass production.
Keffeler said the plan is to create one, single-piece mask that incorporates the three different components into one mask, eliminating the need for three different pieces. Scherr said this version will need to be tested before it is ready for use by hospitals and healthcare providers.
Keffeler said that OCM is currently selling the three-piece version to the folks who are using the masks—UNMC, US Air Force and a few other hospitals nationally that need it.
“The mask project is special and we are thrilled we can be here and available so we can offer our company to get this to as many people and help as many people as we can, given where the world is today,” Keffeler said. “There is a special aspect of this project that might not be there with another project that we might work on.”
Scherr said working with a manufacturer like OCM right out of the gates has huge benefits because “they can think in terms of what’s optimal design not just for the features and functionality that you need, but what’s optimal design for actually manufacturing this at scale.” This can help cut cost.
Keffeler said he is very proud of his team, as they have had to work in a unique way on the project, using Zoom meetings and more virtual planning than usual to create the project, and they were working against the virus to try and get the product out as fast as possible. “We are all really rowing the boat in the same direction to try and get this thing done as fast as we can to help as many people as we can,” Keffeler said. “We wanted to do everything we could to fast track it.”
Scherr said his personal connection to Keffeler, whom he knows through an academic board at Metropolitan Community College, let him know that OCM was the ideal company to partner with for the project. “We both knew if this could save even one life, it was worth doing,” Scherr said. “We were all on the same page here.”
Now that the product is available in area medical facilities, Keffeler said he and his team see the possibility for it to be used on other viruses in addition to COVID-19. “We want people to know this tool is in the toolbox. Once COVID-19 is under control, this tool will be valuable for other diseases that spread the same way as this one.”
So it seems that those aligned stars allowed UNMC, UNeMed, UNeTech, and OCM to band together and create something beneficial for healthcare providers, COVID-19 patients, and potential future patients as well.