Essential Tech Center
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SmartPPE

“In 1976 I discovered Ebola – now I fear an unimaginable tragedy.” – Peter Piot

Proper care for Ebola patients is essential to avoid this unimaginable tragedy.

Unfortunately, what we saw it in the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is still true in Ebola outbreaks: Much of the currently available protection equipment is inappropriate. Local healthcare workers and those from international relief agencies have to improvise and manage with whatever was available – it’s not good enough.

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Healthcare workers dress to provide care, with improvised PPE.
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Worried parents hand their child to a healthcare worker. On average, about 50% of people who contract Ebola will die of it. (WHO)
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Drenched in perspiration, an aid worker removes her PPE.

The challenge

The lack of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) prevents preparedness and hampers the enforcement of infection prevention and control guidelines. Healthcare workers must provide care while risking self-contamination and working in extreme discomfort – imagine getting so hot you can only stand it about 40 minutes and having your boots fill with your sweat. For patients, care by a goggled, suited person you can’t see is anything but comforting.

The drawbacks of most current Ebola PPE include:

  • Lack of preparedness: when an outbreak occurs, it is frequently difficult to mobilize enough of the needed equipment
  • Risk of self-contamination, especially when removing equipment
  • Heat: The PPE is impermeable, causing rapid temperature increase, causing exhaustion and dehydration in about 40 minutes
  • Patient care: Lack of communication and sense of human contact
  • Cost and waste: Most components of the PPE must be disposed of after use, resulting in ecological impact and high cost
  • Safe disposal requires an incinerator

Our adapted solution

We have designed and developed PPE that has the potential to greatly impact caregiving for Ebola and other epidemics.

  • One-piece suit for increased comfort
  • Filtration, ventilation & advanced air flow for cooling (wearable several hours vs. 40min with typical PPE)
  • Patient-friendly: Full-face shield that doesn’t fog up enables patients to see & communicate with caregiver
  • Reduced logistics as fewer suits are need, since they can be reused
  • Eco-friendly: Cleanable and reusable for reduced waste
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Prototyping the face shield
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Testing the prototype: The suit must be able to be easily and safely cleaned and disinfected for reuse.
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Project status

This project is currently in field testing with MSF and, once validated, will be brought to market by SFTech (2022-2023).

Project manager

Dr. Michel Rochat

Partners & supporters

Our supporters and partners are indispensable to this project’s success. Working with partners including those of the local environment and end users, enables critical interdisciplinary skills and various perspectives.

Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI)

Image copyrights: Adobe, Alain Herzog

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