An affordable "stopgap" ventilator which can be used with minimal training could help keep seriously ill people alive long enough to either recover or receive hospital care, scientists say.

The device, called GlasVent, was developed by the University of Glasgow’s Professor Ravinder Dahiya and a team of engineers from his Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) group.

They began working on the project in mid-March, during the early stages of the UK’s Covid-19 outbreak, when demand for ventilators was expected to outstrip demand within weeks and anaesthetists and intensive care consultants were working flat-out on patient care and service redesign.

The University of Glasgow team turned to surgeon Professor Andrew Hart, who had previously worked with them to design bionic hand prosthetics, for help with basic medical advice.

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Although demand for ventilators did not outstrip supply as feared, the team believe their design could still play a lifesaving role in emergency medical settings.

It is low cost, and manufacture could be rapidly scaled to allow basic ventilatory support for large numbers of patients if coronavirus infections peak again, or if other pandemics break out in the future.

GlasVent aims to provide a simple, easy-to-use, and affordable method of delivering oxygen to critically ill patients. Its primary component is a bag valve mask – a handheld, balloonlike device which is already commonly used in emergency medical situations.

Medics squeeze the device by hand to pass air through a tube, which helps to inflate patients’ lungs and keep oxygen circulating.

In theory, bag valve masks can be used indefinitely. However, they require constant attention from medics and the amount of oxygen delivered with each compression can vary from squeeze to squeeze.

The GlasVent team have developed a way to automate the squeezing of the bag, allowing medics to concentrate on other aspects of care and standardising delivery of oxygen into patients’ lungs.

The system’s affordability comes from its unique mix of high and low-tech parts. The high-tech part is an Arduino microcontroller, which controls the pressure in the patients’ airways to ensure they receive the correct volume of oxygen with each compression of the bag.

The low-tech part is a 3D-printed slide-crank, a design similar to that found in steam engines. The Arduino also controls the motion of the crank, providing a squeezing action on the sides of the bag to deliver oxygen to the patient. In the event of a power outage, the crank’s simple design allows medics to operate it by hand, helping to keep the patient alive.

The team have outlined plans for three GlasVent variants, designed to meet different levels of affordability and complexity. They include a fully manual version, which requires users to continuously turn the slide-crank wheel to keep the patient oxygenated, which would cost around £35 to build, a mains-powered version with a total parts cost of £105 and a battery-powered version with a total parts cost of £135.

Professor Dahiya, of the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering, said: “When the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic started to become clear, my research group and I were keen to do whatever we could to help save lives. We’re proud that we’ve managed to go from design to build to testing in a matter of weeks.

"We’ve already conducted numerous successful tests on a medical mannequin fitted with artificial lungs, provided by the Royal Alexandra Hospital Paisley, so we’re confident that it is fit for purpose.

“We hope that once we receive regulatory approval, GlasVent could be used not just to buy some more time for critically ill patients to either fight off disease or be put onto a mechanical ventilator, but to find use in care settings and in the developing world."

Professor Andrew Hart said: “This project shows the University of Glasgow upholding its social role, and the agility of its academic engineering groups in tackling major social and health problems.

“The GlasVent device combines elegant engineering concepts with the engineers’ pragmatic awareness that in a moment of global crisis only a simple system without supply chain restrictions could have helped.

“Fortunately the NHS did cope with the initial peak of Covid-19, and now there is time to refine Professor Dahiya’s prototype to gain the high reliability and greater controllability needed for safe patient care.

“The UK is justifiably proud that is has some of the highest ethical and healthcare device safety standards in the world.

"Meeting these is necessary before GlasVent can ethically benefit patients, including the growing need in major refugee centres and low middle income countries."

The GlasVent team is currently working towards getting regulatory approval for the device to be used in clinical settings and are exploring options for commercial partnerships to manufacture the devices.

Some of the components used in GlasVent were originally developed for projects funded by Professor Dahiya’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) fellowship.

Shore the Scottish Seaweed Company, the trading name of Alness-based seaweed processing company New Wave Foods Ltd, has expanded its product range having secured a £1.7 million finance package.

The package combined a business development grant from Highlands and Island Enterprise (HIE), equity investment from the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) and contributions from several private investors.

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The investment has led to a new product roll-out under the Shore brand, helping support the company’s ambitious growth plans. This includes the launch of a new range of plant-based snacks and a revamping of its existing bagged snack range. Shore is also poised to move into the ambient arena with its brand-new ‘Sea Kitchen’ range.

Keith Paterson, joint-managing director, Shore, said: “At Shore our mission is to create an edible seaweed industry of scale in Scotland that is one hundred per cent sustainable, good for the coastal environment and beneficial for our local rural communities.

“Our success is based on creating tasty plant-based seaweed snacks and foods that appeal to the growing number of mainstream health-conscious consumers who are increasingly seeking sustainably sourced foods. Securing this package with support from HIE and SIB is a major milestone for the company and will help propel our business to new heights.”

Rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing, said: “Scotland is world-renowned for producing quality food and drink products and the Scottish Government is committed to working side-by-side with industry to unlock the potential of this sector.

“Supporting innovative companies like Shore to grow and develop helps to secure new employment opportunities for rural communities. Over the coming months and years as the county begins to recover from the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic, it is important that we continue to invest in and support rural businesses.”

David Oxley, HIE director of business growth, said: “The Highlands and Islands has a natural advantage and well-earned reputation for producing high quality food and drink products from our outstanding natural environment. Seaweed processing presents a new and growing opportunity to expand on this.

“Shore has the skills and experience to develop this new industry. We are delighted to be able to support the firm with this exciting venture, which is creating valuable jobs in some of our most rural communities.”

Kerry Sharp, director, Scottish Investment Bank, said: “Shore’s management team have drawn on their entrepreneurial acumen to create a brand that showcases the natural benefits of sustainably-sourced Scottish produce.”

Shore uses sustainably harvested seaweed, grown on the shores of Scotland, to manufacture plant-based snacks and foods. It launched its first range of snacks in late 2018 and has built up a network of more than 500 stockists already.

Car dealership business Lookers said it will have to book in a £19 million hit to correct inaccuracies in its accounts following an investigation.

Earlier this month, the London-listed firm warned investors they might be unable to buy and sell its shares from the beginning of July due to potential fraud on its books.

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It said that a draft report from Grant Thornton's investigation highlighted that it needs to make a £4 million adjustment due to "misrepresented and overstated debtor balances".

Experts from Grant Thornton have been poring over Lookers's 2019 financial statements since being appointed earlier in the year.

Lookers said it will also have to make a £15 million adjustment to its accounts related to the "incorrect or inconsistent application of policies, processes and accounting standards" within its 2019 figures.

It said the report, which was received earlier this month, highlighted several areas where financial control will need "strengthening".

Lookers said it has started to implement remedial measures to address this and is investing into its financial systems.

An independent board has also been established to ensure the proper implementation of recommendations from the report.

The group said it believes it will still have been profitable before tax in 2019 despite the major adjustments.

Car dealerships have also been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, which forced sites to shut their doors in March and has resulted in a sharp fall in used car sales.