IAI, Defense Ministry, Inovytec convert missile factory to produce ventilators
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IAI, Defense Ministry, Inovytec convert missile factory to produce ventilators

New production line, set up ‘within days,’ delivers 30 portable breathing machines to Health Ministry to address shortage amid coronavirus pandemic

Luke Tress is a video journalist and tech reporter for the Times of Israel

Engineers produce ventilators in a converted missile factory. (Defense Ministry)
Engineers produce ventilators in a converted missile factory. (Defense Ministry)

Israeli manufacturers converted a missile factory to produce ventilators to tackle the shortage of the machines amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Defense Ministry said.

The project is a collaboration between the ministry, the Inovytec medical company and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, the nation’s largest aerospace and defense firm.

The new production line, in an Israel Aerospace Industries factory, has delivered its first 30 ventilators to the Health Ministry, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday. It is housed in the firm’s classified missile production department.

The ventilators are the Ventway Sparrow line of the machines designed by Inovytec, which the company says are a portable, compact and durable version for emergency treatment of children and adults in and out of hospitals. They are in use in Israel and abroad.

“This development will enable the production of crucial ventilators for the life-saving treatment of patients diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“The State of Israel must develop independent capabilities in everything related to dealing with the COVID-19 virus pandemic. We cannot remain dependent on procurement from other countries. We must develop independent, advanced capabilities,” the Defense Ministry said.

The statement did not say how many ventilators the production line planned to manufacture.

The Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Production and Procurement and Directorate of Defense Research and Development bodies took part in the project.

The production line “was set up within days,” the Defense Ministry said.

Ra’anana-based Inovytec specializes in the design and development of medical systems for frontline critical care.

Israel Aerospace Industries makes unmanned aerial systems, radars and communication satellites among other products. The company’s missile and space engineers collaborated with Inovytec personnel on the project.

A Ventway Sparrow ventilator designed by Inovytec and produced by the Defense Ministry and IAI. (Defense Ministry)

In recent weeks the company has put its labs and engineers — who generally work on defense systems — to work at finding ways to fight the pandemic. It developed a prototype of a machine that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to kill viruses and bacteria on hospital surfaces.

The device will allow medical centers to speed up the sterilization process of their rooms and ready them for treatment of new patients. Today this sterilization is done with chemicals, such as chlorine or alcohol.

As of Wednesday morning there were 5,591 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Israel. Twenty-four people have died of the disease.

According to a report prepared last week for the Knesset’s Special Committee on Dealing with the Coronavirus, there were at most 1,437 ventilators in the country still available to treat patients. The Health Ministry disputed that figure, saying there were 2,864 available ventilators.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has sought to take a prominent role in the country’s response to the pandemic, and has sparred with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Ministry officials as a result.

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