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Professor Rebecca Shipley (UCL Mechanical Engineering and UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering) has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 with an OBE for her services to the Development of the Continuous Positive Airways Pressure Device during the Pandemic, nationally and internationally.
In 2020, Professor Shipley co-led a team of engineers from UCL and Mercedes-AMG HPP and clinicians from UCLH to design and manufacture at scale non-invasive breathing aids for COVID-19 patients. Working together in the department’s MechSpace student hub during the lockdown in spring 2020, the team reverse-engineered an off-patent Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, optimised its design and secured regulatory approval within just 2 weeks. Together the team’s effort produced 10,000 CPAP devices for the UK. These breathing aids, known as UCL-Ventura, have been deployed to over 130 NHS hospitals.
Recognising that the humanitarian need was global, the UCL Ventura team enabled the licensed release of the device’s design and manufacturing instructions at no cost. The instructions have since been accessed by over 1900 manufacturers, non-profits and governments in 105 countries. Professor Shipley and the team have worked tirelessly to provide technical and manufacturing support to in-country teams.
UCL-Ventura devices are now helping patients in hundreds of hospitals in over 15 countries including India, South Africa, Peru and Pakistan. Most recently, Shipley worked with the UK government and UCL-Ventura’s logistics partner G-TEM to send over 1,200 UCL-Venturas to India and Nepal to support the countries’ fight against recent surges.
Professor Shipley, whose roles include being Director of UCL’s Institute of Healthcare Engineering and UCL Engineering’s Vice Dean (Healthcare) is the second UCL MechEng academic to receive royal honours for the CPAP effort. Her co-lead on the UCL Ventura project, Professor Tim Baker, was previously honoured with an MBE in 2020 for services to healthcare in UK and abroad.
Commenting on her award, Professor Shipley said: “It is a privilege to be part of the UCL-Ventura team contributing to the global Covid-19 pandemic response. We initially focused our efforts on supplying devices to the NHS, with over 130 hospitals supported.
“Within a year, over 15,000 devices are in use in over 15 countries, either locally manufactured or supplied through charities. Covid-19 remains a global challenge and the UCL-Ventura provides a timely reminder that no single nation can succeed alone; ultimately only international effort will prevail.”
Congratulating Rebecca on her honour UCL Mechanical Engineering’s Head of Department Professor Yiannis Ventikos said: “I am joining my voice to that of the entire Department and of UCL as a whole when I say how tremendously proud we all are for this excellent recognition bestowed on Becky. Her work on UCL Ventura literally changed the world – our Faculty’s motto – by providing much needed equipment to frontline ICUs and hospitals, in the UK but also around the world; a response to the COVID crisis that is indeed unique.
I really believe that what the Ventura team did is Engineering at its best: At a time of crisis they identifying an acute unmet need and brought the right know-how and people together to provide a solution.”
Professor Shipley was one of five UCL staff members recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for their services to science, research, higher education, the economy and creative industries. Read more about the other members commended on UCL News here.
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