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Mercedes F1 engineers help make a breathing aid for coronavirus patients in less than 100 hours

CIRCUIT DE CATALUNYA, MONTMELO, SPAIN - 2020/02/28: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during day six of F1 Winter Testing. (Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Formula 1 engine manufacturer Mercedes has teamed up with clinicians and university engineers in London to design a breathing aid for coronavirus patients that can be quickly mass produced, a development that could help reduce the need for ventilators.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, which was re-engineered from an existing device in fewer than 100 hours, has been recommended for use by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, according to a statement from University College London (UCL), which worked on the project.

CPAP devices have been used in hospitals in China and Italy to treat coronavirus infections, with reports indicating that roughly half of such patients have avoided the need for ventilators, according to the statement. There is a severe shortage of ventilators in many countries, including Britain, that are fighting severe outbreaks.

“These devices will help to save lives by ensuring that ventilators, a limited resource, are used only for the most severely ill,” said professor Mervyn Singer, a critical care consultant at University College London Hospitals (UCLH).

CPAP machines help to keep patients’ airways open and increase the amount of oxygen entering the lungs by pushing air and oxygen into the mouth and nose at a continuous rate. According to the statement, 100 of the newly-designed machines will be used in clinical trials at UCLH, with “rapid rollout to hospitals around the country ahead of the predicted surge in Covid-19 hospital admissions.”

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Professor Tim Baker of UCL said a process that can take years had been reduced to a matter of days, explaining that the team had worked “all hours” to disassemble and analyze an existing device before using computer simulations to “create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production.”

Andy Cowell, managing director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, said he was proud that the Formula 1 engine maker was able to participate and help deliver the device on the “fastest possible timeframe.”

Lewis Hamilton won his sixth Formula 1 world title in 2019 driving a Mercedes car.

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