Caring for COVID-19 Patients, Creating Ventilator Design Challenge with Rich Boyer, MD, PhD


In this episode, we speak with Rich Boyer, MD, PhD who is a PGY-4 resident anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Rich has a unique background. He has  a PhD in biomedical engineering, and an MD degree, both from Vanderbilt University.

While matriculating at Vanderbilt, he worked with the institution to establish their pioneering MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training degree program.

Rich has invaluable industry experience as well. He worked as an R&D engineer at Baxter International, and then served as co-founder of medical device startup Volumetrix, which was awarded NSF Phase I STTR & NIH Phase I/II SBIR grants for the development of wearable hemodynamic monitors.

Anesthesiologists play a variety of critical roles in a hospital setting, in terms of providing anesthesia support for surgery, as well as critical care and pain management, giving them a broad perspective. He’s also a Research Fellow in their Cardiovascular Research Center.

He and his fellow anesthesiologist residents have been doing their intense daily rotations in the ICU as the COVID19 pandemic spiked. Rich first conceived of the challenge while being quarantined after exposure to an infected patient.

A strong team player, he wanted to contribute while in isolation. At first, he thought that he would design a ventilator using his biomedical engineering skills. This evolved into an open call to designers to design medically effective, affordable ventilators. He recruited his fellow residents to join the team, and they launched the CoVent 19 Challenge.

They then assembled a core group of in-kind sponsors to provide a range of tools software, and resources to support the team’s efforts, including MCAD and requirements – driven design software, 3D printing, Biomedical Engineering consulting as well as a 24 hour Slack channel for real-time support from a broad range of medical and biomedical engineering experts.

When not in ICU, he and his core team have been managing this global rapid  ventilator design challenge, a strong indication of their selfless character. The team set up as a 501(c)(3) non – profit with the intention to share the designs openly in order to make them available wherever they are needed. Just 30 days from the launch of the Challenge, 213 teams submitted designs from 43 countries around the globe.

On 5 May, 7 teams were chosen as finalists after an exhaustive review by a panel of world class experts. Teams range from faculty and alums at Stanford University and Smith College to a teacher and high school students at the Baxter Academy to a lone inventor in the UK, who recently won the Queen’s Prize for Innovation.

Each one of the teams has a very compelling backstory and all have very inspiring motivations that compelled them to participate.

The teams will now have about 3 weeks to create a working prototype, before a final winning design will be selected and move into production. They are being given a significant amount of on-going support to complete their designs and bring them to life.

Disclosure: Co-host Mike Grandinetti is a member of the Board of Directors of the CoVent19 Challenge

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