Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Local, Open-Source Ventilator Project Plans to Build 200 ‘Bridge Ventilators’

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The Kahanu Ventilator Project Announced FDA funding to its ‘bridge ventilator’ initiative, which hopes to provide 200 ventilators for use in state hospitals should the need arise. PC: Kahanu

The Kahanu open-source ventilator project has received a $250,000 grant from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation to build bridge ventilators for state hospitals.

A team of Hawai‘i engineers and an emergency room doctor are working to produce simple and effective bridge ventilators with funding from the Hawai‘i Resilience Fund, part of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF).

Named Kahanu, which means “the breath” in the Hawaiian language, the ventilator is made of durable, sterilizable materials and can be produced in Hawai‘i for about $1,200 each, according to a project press release. Medical grade ventilators can cost more than $25,000 each.

A Kahanu ventilator can serve as a “bridge ventilator” that can be enlisted in an emergency to save a patient’s life, the release said.


“We have consulted with both local and international medical experts and tested Kahanu in a large series of bench testing,” said Kai Matthes, M.D., Ph.D., who is a member of both the Kahanu team as well as the HiCOVID community task force. “Not only have we demonstrated the capabilities of our device, but we anticipate the potential need on the front lines of this pandemic.”

According to the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i, there are about 535 ventilators in the state, which is nearing 600 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, April 20. Currently, Hawaii is preparing for the anticipated need for ventilators, particularly on the neighbor islands.

“There is concern that a breakout on any of the neighbor islands could be devastating, especially in our rural communities,” Dr. Matthes said.

“This project has the support of the Lt. Governor and many other medical professionals,” he added. “The Food and Drug Administration also recognizes the need for life-saving solutions during this pandemic and has expedited reviews of equipment — Kahanu is currently undergoing this review process.”


“This funding will allow us to manufacture at least 200 Kahanu ventilators, which — if projections hold — could support Hawai‘i hospitals that need to extend their peak capacity,” said Kahanu team member Olin Lagon. “We’re grateful that the HCF is investing in solutions for all of the most vulnerable populations across our state.”

The Kahanu project is an example of local solutions to a global pandemic.

“We’re excited to support this grassroots initiative that could have life-saving impacts for Hawaii residents,” said Micah Kāne, CEO and president of Hawai‘i Community Foundation. “Kahanu’s ability to organize local expertise, connect with hospital systems on their potential needs, and its open-source principles to potentially help communities around the world made this an important project to fund.”

As an open-source project, all of the designs and technical schematics developed for Kahanu are available for anyone else to freely use to build their own devices or to build upon for other projects. To date, three international teams are already preparing to use Kahanu’s design, the release said.


Kahanu is one of dozens of open-source ventilator and PPE projects worldwide. Lagon was able to establish a global network where engineers, designers, makers and medical experts can discuss and trade information in real-time, the release continued.

“We took a lot of inspiration from the OxyGEN project in Spain, and in turn, we’ve heard from teams in the Asia Pacific eager to iterate on Kahanu,” Olin said. “This international collaboration is perhaps the most inspiring part of our work.”

The HCF funding will be put to use immediately upon FDA approval.

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