Startup group works to get flat-packed protective boxes to front-line COVID-19 medical workers

There are a number of initiatives by startup companies and entrepreneurs looking to support the healthcare response to COVID-19, and one that’s addressing a need in the realm of personal protective equipment is the COVID Box project launched by a group of volunteers in Toronto that includes startup founders and employees, as well as doctors and healthcare professionals.

The COVID-19 intubation box that this group is working to produce is a polycarbonate box that can be flat-packed for easy shipping, and assembled quickly on the receiving end for use in healthcare facilities while medical personnel intubate a patient. Intubation is the process of inserting a plastic tube into a patient’s trachea to help keep their airway open, and is specifically necessary when someone needs to be put on a ventilator — a common outcome for patients severely affected by COVID-19.

The intubation box provides healthcare workers with an additional layer of protection, while the transparent plastic used means they can still perform the procedure. The design is based on anĀ open-sourced original plan that was released by Dr. Hsien Yung Lai, a medical practitioner in Taiwan, specifically to address the global challenge of intubating COVID-19 patients worldwide while maintaining care worker safety as much as is possible.

The COVID Box project provides instructions on how to make your own box with the requisite materials, but it is hoping to secure more mass production capacity to deliver them at scale, starting with Canadian hospitals and hopefully expanding to address healthcare needs around the world, too. Project co-founder Jonathan Norris (co-founder and CTO of Taplytics) said the team has been working for a week on prototyping and production.

“Early last week Taplytics Head of Finance, Gloria Cheung, came to us letting us know that a group of Doctors were looking to get a simple plastic box made to protect Medical Providers while intubating patients who have COVID-19,” he said via message. “We were able to connect the doctors with a group of engineers from Taplytics and folks I know from mentoring in the FIRST Robotics program, to design and build multiple prototypes of a flat-packable box designed for this use. We worked with Eventscape to quickly build prototypes and got the final version approved for use in the Trillium Health Network yesterday.”

The group is looking for donations to help scale its efforts, as well as manufacturing partners that can help — especially those that have access to CNC router hardware, which is essentially the only equipment needed to put these out, as well as anyone who can supply 1/4″ polycarbonate sheets.