You may recall the shocking realization in the early days of the pandemic of how unprepared the United States was to deal with a sudden demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices required to treat patients who had contracted the virus. Many of these products were either made in China or relied on parts produced by overseas supply chains, which were often on lock down as their home countries dealt with COVID-19. Prodded by the federal government, automotive OEMs and their suppliers reconfigured their production lines to produce the much needed equipment. In April, Ford Motor Co. announced that it would collaborate with GE Healthcare to produce a third-party ventilator at a plant in Michigan, and Cadillac Products Automotive Co. stepped up to manufacture PPE for front-line medical personnel. One month earlier in the United Kingdom, seven Formula 1 teams formed Project Pitlane, part of a larger industrywide UK effort to produce ventilators.
The first Formula 1 race took place just over 70 years ago in Silverstone, UK, a milestone that was going to be celebrated this year. Then COVID-19 happened. In response, rivalries have been set aside to battle the virus, “doing what the people of F1 do best — adapt, innovate, and deliver,” said an announcement on the Formula 1 website. The seven UK Formula 1 teams taking part in the project are Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, BWT Racing Point F1 Team, Haas F1 Team, McLaren F1 Team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, Renault DP World F1 Team and Williams Racing (formerly ROKiT Williams Racing).
Project Pitlane is focused on three work streams, according to media outlet Verdict Medical Devices:
1. participation in the Ventilator Challenge UK (VCUK) consortium upscaling the Penlon and Smiths ventilators;
2. an R&D project conducted in conjunction with the NHS Young Entrepreneur Programme; and
3. the development of a new continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) in conjunction with University College London (UCL).
The most successful F1 medical device work stream arguably has been the CPAP device developed by Mercedes and UCL, writes Verdict Medical Devices. The device gained approval for use by the UK National Health Service in April. The UCL-Ventura breathing aid helps COVID-19 patients with lung infections breathe more easily when an oxygen mask alone is insufficient, but intubation isn’t needed. It was open-sourced, allowing anyone to produce the ventilator by copying the design, added Verdict Medical Devices.