Written by: Alexis Ha
Edited by: Emon Heidari
ABBU (Fatherly) Love
Dr. Thomas Milner, recently appointed as the director of the Beckman Laser Institute at the University of California, Irvine, has been an active member and integral contributor to the Bridge Ventilator Consortium. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Milner and Dr. Wong co-founded and spearheaded the development of the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC) serving a consortium and forum focused initially on the development of the ambu bag ventilator. One of Dr. Milner's early contributions to the BVC was an ambu bag ventilator developed by his research lab previously at the University of Texas at Austin.
Collaborating to fabricate the Automatic Bag Breathing Unit, or the “ABBU,” Dr. Milner’s team as well as several other groups worked around the clock to create a sophisticated ventilator that features a ‘patient assist’ ventilation mode, a mode of breathing, wherein the device is able to determine whether or not the patient is attempting to breath on their own. This unique functionality greatly widens the device’s usability case to patients under both light and heavy sedation.
Upon completion of the research and development phase of the ABBU, Dr. Milner’s team engaged FDA regulatory legal counsel, Georgia Ravitz at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati to assist with their Emergency Use Authorization(EUA) FDA regulatory approval. Dr. Milner commented that it is absolutely essential to maintain an open line of communication between the regulatory and engineering aspects of his team to expedite regulatory approval processes. Having completed an efficacious round of in-vivo pre-clinical animal testing, Dr. Milner anticipates being awarded the EUA approval process in late September 2020. In anticipation of the EUA approval, Dr. Milner has partnered with ThermoTek (Flower Mound, Texas) to produce the first 50 units of the ABBU for local deployment in rural areas of Texas with limited supply of ventilators.
It was very refreshing through our interview to hear Dr. Milner’s perspective on the moral and drive of his team with the backdrop of the pandemics.
“Everyone did this just because they wanted to do something in response to the current crisis.”
He mentioned that some engineers would spend hours upon hours in the lab, even making personal sacrifices, to keep the ball rolling on the project. All the extra hours and collaborative efforts between Dr. Milner’s team, several sponsors, and many other contributors resulted in a high-functioning, complex ventilator that can be used in situations where a conventional ventilator isn’t available.
Outside of the Bridge Ventilator Consortium, Dr. Milner focuses his main research on investigating various diagnostic light tissue interactions, including but not limited to non-linear microscopy and optical coherence tomography. One of his cutting edge research topics involves the ophthalmic application of angular resolved side scattering optical coherence tomography to detect early stage changes in retinal tissue indicative of developing Alzheimer's disease. Both Dr. Wong and Dr. Milner’s spontaneous effort to help the shortage of ventilators around the world resulted in the creation of the Bridge Ventilator Consortium.
Dr. Milner would like to acknowledge the funding for the development and manufacturing of ABBU from: Dell Medical School, Innovation Center in the Cockrell School of Engineering, and UT Health in San Antonio.
Here are some other new sources regarding the topic of bridge ventilators for your viewing: