Since the first case of COVID-19 appeared in the state, the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) has taken swift action to protect medical workers and staff from the virus. Early in the pandemic, the Indiana CTSI worked with prototyping labs across its partner institutions of Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, as well as Ivy Tech, to create and disseminate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, face shields, and sneeze guards, and link up prototyping efforts across the state surrounding novel devices such as ventilator splitters and N-95 alternatives.
Initially, the PPE effort was a response to two major challenges around the state of Indiana and the nation. First, major PPE manufacturers were responding to a high number of competing requests from around the country, putting a strain on supply chains. Second, smaller organizations were often unable to compete or didn’t know where to go to find PPE.
In order to address both needs, Indiana CTSI innovators utilized 3D printers and other prototyping equipment to produce approximately 100,000 face masks, 50,000 face shields, 15,000 ear guards, as well as Plexiglas sneeze guards, intubation boxes and even school desks. The Indiana CTSI also connected smaller organizations struggling to locate PPE with those agencies that understand local needs, such as county health departments and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). The Indiana CTSI maintains a public PPE request form to address ongoing PPE needs here.
Now that supply chains for PPE have stabilized, innovators across the state have stayed vigilant and willing to address new COVID-19 needs as they arise. The FAMES lab at IU-Bloomington, directed by Alexander Gumennik, Assistant Professor of Intelligent Systems Engineering, recently published their work on improved nasal swab design. Meanwhile, other innovation groups across the state have continued to focus on needs related to ventilators, indoor ventilation, and disinfection. To keep groups connected and aware of needs as the pandemic evolves, the Indiana CTSI hosts a bi-weekly meeting where innovators can share updates, needs, and new ideas.
“As we enter the new year, we are looking to involve more clinicians and community members in these bi-weekly conversations, to get an idea of what needs still exist, as well as what new problems are developing,” said Kara Garcia, PhD, Indiana CTSI navigator in Evansville who helped spearhead these collaborations. “By getting the stakeholders and innovators in one (Zoom) room, we hope to pinpoint opportunities for innovation, and rapidly produce solutions to address rapidly changing needs.”
Anyone interested in joining these bi-weekly meetings as a clinician, community member, or innovator, can contact Jake Lazarus at email@example.com.