Formel 1 - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Großer Preis von Frankreich 2019. Lewis Hamilton Formula One - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, French GP 2019. Lewis Hamilton

By Red Herring

A team of experts—including clinicians at the Mercedes Formula One racing team—has developed a breathing aid that can keep Coronavirus patients out of intensive care units.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, which mirrors those Italy and China have used, delivers oxygen without the use of a ventilator. A team at University College, London (UCL) created the solution alongside experts at its UCLH NHS trust, Mercedes and Oxford Optronix, a small business that manufactures monitoring devices.

Forty devices are being trialed at UCLH and three other London hospitals. If successful, Mercedes-AMG-HPP, the automaker’s sports division, may produce 1,000 units each day, freeing valuable bed space and resources amid the unprecedented pandemic, which has ground nations to a halt worldwide.

“Normally medical device development would take years but we’ve done that in days because we went back to a simple existing device and ‘reverse engineered’ it in order to be able to produce them quickly and at scale,” Professor Rebecca Shipley, director of UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, told the BBC.

Mercedes’ development follows news that fellow German firm Bosch has created a 2.5-hour kit that could rapidly increase the number of Coronavirus tests.

Reports from Italy suggest that CPAPs keep up to half of all treated patients away from intensive care ventilation. They may be a vital battleground against Coronavirus, as the outbreak today passed 723,000 cases, and 34,000 deaths, worldwide.

The US, which is becoming the virus’ epicenter, is struggling to keep up with ventilator demand – with New York governor Andrew Cuomo claiming his state, the country’s worst-affected, requires 30,000. President Donald Trump has questioned the number. This weekend Stefan Dräger, head of German ventilator manufacturer, told Der Spiegel that adequate ventilator production was “absolutely mission impossible.”

Mercedes’ Formula One team has excess time for innovation on its hands, after the first eight races of the 2020 were canceled due to COVID-19. The Canadian Grand Prix on June 14 is scheduled to be its season opener. But the current spread of the illness suggests that may, too, drop from the calendar.