Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) is a protection equipment technology used to supply purified air to medical professionals working in infection-prone areas such as COVID wards, to prevent infection and disease from the aerosolized virus particles. Till very recently, all the PAPRs in the country were imported and they cost more than one lakh rupees. The problem was acute during the pandemic when the availability of protection equipment became scarce. It was at this time that AMMACHI Labs and the doctors at Amrita hospital decided to work on designing and developing a complete PAPR kit from scratch – a small but sure step towards Atmanirbhar Bharat for its healthcare needs.
PAPRs are generally safer, more comfortable to use, and reusable as compared to normal PPEs with N95 masks. But because of their exorbitant cost, they haven’t been widely used in developing countries like India. The goal of the project was to develop a low-cost solution that meets all the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standards.
On January 13, 2021, AMMACHI Labs at Amrita University and Amrita Hospitals launched the product jointly. 20 kits of this product will be tested by medical professionals at AIMS. Once all the feedback and design improvements have been incorporated, the PAPR will be productized by Omnex Inc. Unlike commercial PAPRs costing anywhere between Rs. 70,000 – Rs. 1,50,000, Amrita PAPR costs less than Rs. 30,000 per kit.
The Amrita PAPR for medical professionals uses an H14 grade HEPA filter with more than 99.995% virus filtration efficiency, weighs less than 1.5kg, and gives more than 10 hours of battery up-time for usage. The airflow is more than 10 CFM, providing more comfort in a humid country like India (the NIOSH standard requirement is just 6CFM). The noise level is kept under 68 decibels inside the hood, making communication easier (even better than some commercially available PAPRs).
The launch event was attended by several esteemed dignitaries from AIMS, AMMACHI Labs, and Mata Amritandamayi Math. Swami Dayamritananda Puri, the executive director of Mata Amritanandamayi Math centers of North America, was the special guest for the program. Swamini Karunamrita Prana from Mata Amritanandamayi Math lit the lamp and inaugurated the event. Dr. Sreelakshmi P Leeladharan provided the welcome address and shared how Amma’s vision and guidance has inspired several teams in Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham to convert the challenges of the pandemic into several world-class innovations. Swami Dayamritananda Puri talked about the potential for the PAPRs to help people not just in the medical field but from all walks of life thereby creating a tangible impact on society. Dr. Bhavani R Rao, the director of AMMACHI Labs and CWEGE gave the opening remarks for the product launch where she touched upon the initiative and inventiveness of the scientists, doctors, and engineers from several Amrita institutions coming together for one cause – dealing with the pandemic with cutting edge and social innovations like the PAPR. Mr. Deepu DS gave the product presentation and technical brief on the PAPR and the technical standards it is designed to meet. Dr. Sundeep Vijayaraghavan, Professor, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery department shared some of his experiences during the product development, from conception to final prototype. Mr. Chad Kymal, Chairman of Omnex Inc talked about scaling up and taking the device to market. Mr. Arun Kumar, the vice president of Omnex Global presented the product roll-out strategies. Dr. Mahesh Kappanayil, Professor, Paediatric Cardiology concluded the program and provided the vote of thanks. Dr. Prem Nair, Director of AIMS hospitals presided over the event and received the PAPRs.