Adjunct faculty member Dr. Wisam Breegi identified a need—over a decade ago—for an infant incubator device that could be utilized across a range of scenarios, including a pandemic. Fast forward to now, he and his team adjusted the design to assist patients with COVID-19.
An experienced medical researcher and human rights activist, Breegi has been teaching anatomy, physiology first aid, and nutrition at Endicott College’s Boston campus, through the Van Loan School of Professional Studies, for more than four years. Given his medical experience and a keen eye for socio-environmental trends, more than ten years ago Breegi foresaw a need and has since been developing infant incubators with a disposable housing that can function as a containment device, effectively creating a controlled micro-environment that can handle biohazards, chemical hazards, and infectious diseases. The design is high-tech so that it can be used in many different applications, and it was successfully patented last year.
With the spread of COVID-19, Breegi and his team adjusted the design of their incubators so that the disposable housing can fit over the heads of patients (or the whole body for full containment). Similar designs, commonly referred to as “bubbles,” are currently in use in hospitals internationally, but there are flaws to the existing designs. These bubbles have to be removed in order to provide treatment to patients, which risks contamination to those nearby. Breegi’s design solves this problem. “In our technology, we created an air lock system that gives us the opportunity to deliver instruments or medications, inside the hood, without compromising the biosafety of the hood or the dome itself,” says Breegi. “Because arm sleeves are incorporated into this dome, patients can be intubated, drink, eat, and take medications, without the need to take off the dome “bubble.” Using this system will significantly reduce the number of cross contamination cases that we are seeing in hospitals today.”
The infant incubator device incorporates artificial intelligence (AI), phototherapy, heat, and humidity, and they are working to develop a scale for weighing the patient. The incubator can even accommodate conducting surgery. Breegi says of the adjusted design, “we donated about 15 of the prototypes to a hospital in Boston and sent two to another hospital, so that they can test it and provide feedback.” In the second stage of development, Breegi plans to add sterilization and oxygen connections so it can be used as a non-invasive ventilator, however, significant funding is needed for these developments to be made.
Breegi’s team has already filed for the FDA emergency use authorization (EUA), hoping to fast track production and deliver the newly-designed “aerosol boxes” to hospitals and healthcare facilities as soon as possible. The group has received international attention from political and healthcare leaders in the U.S., the Netherlands, Cuba, Honduras, Canada and South Korea.
His true mission is to develop this technology so that it is affordable and accessible to all. The disposable dome (housing) of the infant incubator would be useable for seven days, costing about $10 per day, or less. The machine itself—the controller—will be under $500, and is reusable. Also, the battery is rechargeable, allowing for a very low consumption of electricity. When broken down, the cost of the machine amounts to under $20 per day.
Breegi is an example of someone who lives his passion. “It is a great journey; I think it's a great mission, and it keeps me going every day,” he says. “Each morning is an opportunity. I wake up excited to be moving toward this goal.”
He also gains inspiration from his students, who show great interest in his vocation. “Working with the students at Endicott Boston is an amazing opportunity,” he says. “I have the privilege to work with students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”
The partnership between Breegi and Director of Endicott College Boston Marcelo Juica, as well as the Boston team, has been a positive experience for all. “The knowledge and experience that Dr. Breegi brings to our program, to our students, is so valuable,” says Juica. “It is a mutually beneficial collaboration in the best way possible.”
Photo by Matthew Modoono