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Meet Nigeria’s Yusuf Bilesanmi, the scientist behind a ventilator that doesn’t use electricity

Bilesanmi, 37, recently won the Africa Prize One to Watch award from the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK

AS the global Covid-19 pandemic continues into its second year, countries around the world have had to think of innovative ways to lessen the burden on their hospitals, amid a dire shortage of critical medical equipment that could make the difference between life and death.

PhD Engineering student Yusuf Bilesanmi from Nigeria (pictured) and his team of fellow engineers and researchers from the University of Loughborough in England have done just that by developing a game-changing apparatus called the ShiVent ventilator.

Bilesanmi calls himself an energy and infrastructure business developer and consultant. He has 10 years of experience working in clean tech, smart grid and digital factories to foster decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation of energy across the value chain. The aim is to enhance operational efficiency and maximise profitability for businesses and the wider society.

He has worked with multinationals such as Panasonic and Mitsubishi.

‘I combine skills of managing large projects and trading electronic items to identify and develop missed opportunities across the value chain,’ he writes on his official LinkedIn profile

ShiVent is a low-cost, non-electric and non-invasive ventilator for patients with respiratory difficulties.

Bilesanmi, 37, recently won the Africa Prize One to Watch  award from the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK.

He was one of 12 innovators who pitched their ideas to a live online audience who voted for the design which showed the most promise and potential for impact, according to a statement from Loughborough University.

‘I was dumbfounded and super-elated. I couldn’t believe we had won,’ he told the university in an interview.

‘It makes all the difference in the work we have done, the support we have received from the Loughborough community.’

Bilesanmi is a family guy who comes from humble beginnings. Despite developing one of the most advanced pieces of medical technology this century, he hasn’t forgotten where he comes from, nor does he shy away from showing his affection for his family, which he often does on social media.

In a recent Instagram post, he took a moment to acknowledge his mother on her 68th birthday, saying: ‘Thank you for teaching me the most important things in life. I learnt a great deal working with you at the shop. I didn’t know the training you gave me then was preparing me for a great life of responsibility.’

He mentions a day when his mother, while sorting fish bones, reminded him that most people don’t realise how much trouble it is to clean the fish.

‘From that day onwards I cherished every single morsel of food,’ he said.

A Lagos State University graduate, Bilesanmi would like to get the ventilator to those who need it the most across Africa, Asia and South America, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering.

‘ShiVent does not require electricity, it is easy to install, non-invasive and oxygen-efficient, and our belief is that it can help save lives when more expensive or oxygen-intensive technologies can’t get to patients,’ said Bilesanmi.

According to the developer, the system works by connecting hospital patients to an existing oxygen source and blends air with the high-flow oxygen supply.

The patient inhales oxygen to fill up the lungs and then exhales into a water column, creating back-end pressure that keeps their airway open.

The other co-founders are Gaurav Nanajkar, Pawel Nycz and Ricardo Nascimento – all from Loughborough University.

The team carried out a demonstration of the ShiVent at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in May to test the safety and efficacy of the product.

‘We are grateful to our team and the amazing doctors and medical team at Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

‘The ShiVent has passed three functionality tests and they have just begun clinical trials, which will swiftly be followed up by mass production and distribution to markets of interest,’ Bilesanmi said.

Shifa Technologies Limited, of which Bilesanmi is the founder, was established in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to address the shortage of ventilators.

According to its website, the team came together with the primary objective of researching, designing, testing, producing, commercialising and supplying low-cost ventilators to support health facilities which have a growing demand, as well as to keep it low-tech and perfectly fit for purpose.

Chad Williams/African News Agency (ANA)

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Chad Williams/African News Agency (ANA)

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