SaiOx developed the helium-oxygen respiratory assist device called Hespiro to help treat patients with respiratory conditions, including Covid-19.
The air we breathe is made up of about 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, and some other trace gases. The Hespiro technology replaces that nitrogen with helium.
“When you replace the nitrogen with helium, and you still have the same amount of oxygen, you’re able to get deeper into the lungs,” said Manny Teran, the CEO of SaiOx. “It’s so much less dense, and so you can get deeper into the lungs, and you can get through obstructions.
“It’s the difference between swimming in water and swimming in maple syrup. It’s that drastic.”
Hospitals across India are struggling to provide oxygen to patients with Covid-19 due to a severe shortage of oxygen supplies in the country, according to the BBC.
The Covid-19 death toll in India is over half a million. Public health officials there project the country will reach a million deaths by August of this year.
In the midst of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the Indian government amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which says non-government organizations in India can’t distribute foreign contributions to other groups, and any monetary donations from across the world must be placed in a specific bank account in Delhi.
The law does allow for other governments to work with India on sending supplies. Northern Ireland, France and the U.S. have all sent aid to India. However, this law makes it impossible for SaiOx to send respiratory devices to India, which is why XrossFusion is using the SaiOx technology to manufacture the devices themselves.
Teran said he doesn’t know the intricacies of the law, but it seems to be taking away the option for other countries to help.
“My hunch is that it is likely going to inhibit a lot of support and help when it’s needed most,” Teran said. “Just from the outside, it looks like it’s going to just hold things back and slow things down.”
Teran said the goal is to allow XrossFusion to use Hespiro’s technology to produce devices for hospitals in India that can recycle exhaled oxygen to allow every oxygen tank to last 28 times longer.
Once SaiOx and XrossFusion work out the specifics of manufacturing the respiratory device, clinical studies, production and distribution have to be completed before the device reaches Indian hospitals.
“They already have a similar technology that is approved, so we don’t believe it’s going to take a long time at all for them to get through the [clinical studies] process,” Teran said.
SaiOx has been contacted by people across the world following the announcement of this partnership, including many people of Indian descent, who praise those coming together to help India in this time of crisis.
Teran praised the work of Erik Herrmann, the Chief Product Officer at SaiOx, for his work in getting the technology to XrossFusion.
“He’s making things happen,” Teran said. “Having him as a quarterback right now is exactly what we need.”
Teran expects the respiratory devices from XrossFusion to be completed soon, as the scarcity of oxygen in India has made treating Covid-19 patients even more difficult for doctors and nurses there.