Israeli Startup Creates a Face Mask to Protect Against Coronavirus
Many people wear face mask to prevent them from contracting the coronavirus and hence, touching their nose, mouth and eyes, as these are the main modes of transmission.
As the pandemic due the COVID-19 keeps spreading, there is an increasing need for personal protection systems that effectively work to avoid being infected with a virus that is characterized by its rapid spreading.
The N95 are the face masks we’ve been familiar with during the last few days, as many people, doctors, nurses and health workers are wearing them. However, these masks have a serious problem, that’s probably why much contagions in the healthcare centres are related to the use of these masks. The N95 face masks don’t completely block small particles of the new virus. Moreover, they can’t isolate people from the disease as blocked viral droplets remain in their surface. Hence, the masks pose a danger when touching and trowing them away.
That is why the contagion rate is quite high, as many health workers are exposed to the virus during many hours per day. Therefore, in order to avoid the spread and contagion, it is necessary to have a good material.
While the nose is the main route for the coronavirus to reach the lungs, some researchers believe that the eyes are another route of transmission.
Therefore, Israel physician and medical-device inventor Noam Gavriely, has worked quickly to develop what he calls the ViriMASK Protective Oculo-Respirator.
ViriMASK is strapped around the head, covering the eyes with a see-through visor and the nose and mouth with a filtering mechanism. The device can be washed and reused. The filters must be replaced after 12 hours of use and disposed into a special envelope containing disinfectant.
The patent-pending ViriMASK should be ready for efficacy testing at an independent lab around mid-April.
The cost is expected to be about $50, including a pack of two filters and disposal envelopes. Additional filter-envelope packs will cost around $2 a piece.
Prototype 3D printed and tested on dummy
Stratasys 3D printing company in Rehovot printed a prototype that Gavriely’s team tested using a ventilator and a dummy wearing the device.
Independent testing will need to confirm that ViriMASK provides a full seal around the eyes and nose and that its filter blocks all virus-sized particles. “We have established a connection with an internationally known lab to verify that it does what it is supposed to do,” says Gavriely.
“We started working on this 3 February, after I got multiple emails from our distributors in China asking us to find them face masks,” says Gavriely. “Everyone is wearing a paper mask under the illusion that it protects them. It doesn’t. “So I said, okay, we need something to bridge the gap between gas masks and face mask” says Gavriely.
Gavriely did a post-doc at Harvard School of Public Health in the 1980s and a fellowship in pulmonology in Boston. He was a professor of physiology at the medical school of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. And he was involved in the development of gas masks with the IDF during the second Gulf War.
This combination of experience helped him envision what kind of device could help in the coronavirus pandemic. Hence, he applied his knowledge and development skills in the ViriMASK Project at his medical-device company, HemaClear.
His inhouse industrial designer, Dudi Ashkenazi, designed ViriMASK “to be not only functional but fairly comfortable and user friendly,” says Gavriely. There is a barrier frame separating the eyes, nose and mouth from the world around us. The innermost layer is made of a soft silicone-like material so it’s comfortable”, explained Gavriely.
To keep the seal tight, eyeglasses would have to be worn on top of the see-through visor, he says. Future versions may have soft netting as an alternative to straps for fastening around the head.
Tests aren’t done on prototypes but on devices from the production line. In thar regard, time is everything. “We’re in a major race to get the first batch manufactured. But I think we have all the pieces of the puzzle”, said the executor.
Ending the quarantine: is it a possibility?
The product could be critical to change the rules of the game and to allow health workers and people in intensive contact with unselected populations, such as airport workers, to do their tasks in a safer way.
“ViriMASK could also free people from home isolation”affirms the physician. He also said that the company’s COO is quarantined at home because he went to Germany
He could safely come to work wearing this mask, said Gavriely. “You can drive wearing this mask. You can talk with it. However, you cannot smoke with the mask and you cannot pick your nose as it’s very important to keep your hands off your face.” explained Gavriely.
Because fit is essential to effectiveness and comfort. So that, the company make multiple sizes and introduce an online fitting widget for ViriMASK. “A one-size-fits-all mask would be as bad as a one-size-fits-all brassiere,” he notes.
HemaClear “developed a method of making six measurements of the face; we’ll have a video explaining how to do it”. Customers will input their measurements on the website and a little algorithm will tell them which size they need.
People with facial deformations or significant asymmetry may be able to order a custom 3D-printed ViriMASK, Gavriely adds. “My friends in Stratasys tell me this is possible and we’re thinking about it.”
The ViriMASK would initially be manufactured by HemaClear’s US partner in China, while the filters may be produced in Israel, Europe and North America.
Gavrielywants the production to start at 1,000 units per day and ramp up to 100,000 units per day within four months, possibly with the addition of more manufacturing sites in Israel.