In the race to develop medical equipment for frontline workers of the coronavirus pandemic, three mechanical-powered prototypes of respirators entered the “initial phase” of production Friday as their developers await authorization to proceed with clinical trials.

The first batch of 100 low-cost respirators is being manufactured in Medellín by researchers from InnspiraMED, a public-private sector initiative that involves the motorcycle company Auteco Mobility and home appliance company Haceb.

Juan Felipe Tettay, operations director for Auteco Mobility, explains why the process of assembling ventilators for critically-ill patients is “very similar” to those used in motorcycles, and activity his company has been performing for seven decades. To begin the prototypes for medical use, Auteco needed to adapt its production plant, and employees were also trained in health science. Tettay explains that once the devices are assembled they will undergo comprehensive quality testing to check all the electrical components and ventilators. “It’s a wonderful initiative to be able to give society respirators that will save lives,” says Tettay, adding that the approximate cost for each machine is COP$10 million (US$2,600).

InnspiraMED involves 50 companies that makeup Medellín’s technology and innovation ecosystem and works in alliance with both the Mayoralty and public university Universidad de Antioquia.

“This project is the result of the union between ‘University-Company-State’ to respond to the needs of a city, as well as global crisis,” states Juan Andrés Vásquez, executive director of Centro de Innovación, Ciencia y Tecnología Ruta N. Ruta N (Route N) has invested more than a decade in positioning Medellín as a regional hub for science research and development. A key player in the assembly chain is another Medellín-based company, medical technicians Industrias Médicas Sampedro.

For Vásquez, the respirators will enter the market as “open source,” free of patent restrictions and available for other nations should they require them. Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Dominican Republic and Mexico have already knocked on the doors of Ruta N. For Mayor Daniel Quintero, Medellín is rising to the occasion at a pivotal moment in which “humanity must unite.” He also believes that “Medellín must make everything it has available as the Software Valley for the world to save lives and wherever they need to be saved.”

Medellín has 616 confirmed cases of COVID-19 of the national total 19,131.

Friday witnessed a daily record in coronavirus deaths with 30 fatalities putting the toll at 682. Deaths were registered in Bogotá, Barranquilla, Cali, Soledad, Buenaventura, Sabanagrande and Tumaco.

To confirm 801 new infections, the National Institute of Health processed 7,964 PCR tests. Bogotá reported 280 new cases, followed by the department of Valle del Cauca with 166m Atlántico with 120,Barranquilla 63 and Cartagena 44 among other locations. The Ministry of Health has identified 130 clusters of the virus in the country.