"We just figured we had to do something to help," said Will Pomerantz, Vice President of Virgin Orbit. "So we reached out first to Governor Newsom's office, and were connected by that office to a bunch of academic researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and University of Texas, Austin, who identified for us the need for someone to go out and build, in very large numbers, some very simple ventilator units."
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Ventilators have turned out to be critical in this pandemic, pumping air into infected lungs and giving patients a chance to recover. Just about every hospital in the country could use more than they have.
"Within a couple days we had a working prototype," said Pomerantz. "It was in testing a few days later. We had a second generation prototype we were testing as well. Now we've started the process of our FDA approval and getting to ramp up our production.'
Hospitals aren't just having a hard time finding ventilators, they're also having trouble paying for them... something Virgin Orbit is hoping to address by making their device as simple and inexpensive as possible.
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'We are doing this because it's what our neighbors need, it's what our families need, it's what our hospitals need, and we want to make them as quickly and as cheaply as we possibly can," said Pomerantz.
And even though they are working hard under difficult conditions the company says morale is high.
"I've never experience something quite like this," said Pomerantz. "There's nothing more motivating than knowing if I spend another hour at work today I can literally save lives."
But like everyone else, the team at Virgin Orbit is looking forward to the day when the crisis is over and they can get back to the business of blasting people into space.