(CNN)A high-pressure ventilator prototype developed by NASA engineers to help coronavirus patients was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, according to NASA.
The approval is for use of the ventilator specifically for coronavirus patients under the FDA's ventilator Emergency Use Authorization, established by the agency on March 24.
"This FDA authorization is a key milestone in a process that exemplifies the best of what government can do in a time of crisis," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. "This ventilator is one of countless examples of how taxpayer investments in space exploration -- the skills, expertise and knowledge collected over decades of pushing boundaries and achieving firsts for humanity -- translate into advancements that improve life on Earth."
It's called VITAL, or Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally. The approval comes on the heels of the prototype passing a critical test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York last week.
"Fighting the virus and treating patients during this unprecedented global pandemic requires innovative approaches and action. It also takes an all-hands-on-deck approach, as demonstrated by the NASA engineers who used their expertise in spacecraft to design a ventilator tailored for very ill coronavirus patients. This example shows what we can do when everyone works together to fight Covid-19," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.
"We believe today's action will increase availability of these life-saving medical devices," he added. "The FDA will continue to add products to this emergency use authorization, as appropriate, during this pandemic to facilitate an increase in ventilator inventory."
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena developed the ventilator, which can be built quickly using fewer parts, most of which are available in current supply chains, the agency said. But it won't compete with the existing supply chain for ventilators.
Currently, the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL, is conducting outreach through its Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships to offer a free license and find manufacturers for VITAL.
"Now that we have a design, we're working to pass the baton to the medical community, and ultimately patients, as quickly as possible," said Fred Farina, chief innovation and corporate partnerships officer at Caltech, in a statement. "To that end, we are offering the designs for licensing on a royalty-free basis during the time of the pandemic."
What is VITAL?
The prototype works like traditional ventilators, where sedated patients rely on an oxygen tube to help them breathe. But it's built to last three or four months, unlike ventilators in hospitals that were designed to last for years and help patients with other medical issues. The engineers hope that more traditional ventilators can be freed up for patients with the most severe cases of coronavirus if VITAL is put into place.
"We were very pleased with the results of the testing we performed in our high-fidelity human simulation lab," said Dr. Matthew Levin, director of innovation for the Human Simulation Lab and associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine, and genetics and genomics sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine, in a statement.
"The NASA prototype performed as expected under a wide variety of simulated patient conditions. The team feels confident that the VITAL ventilator will be able to safely ventilate patients suffering from Covid-19 both here in the United States and throughout the world."
The innovative ventilator was also designed to offer more oyxgen at higher pressures than typical models because Dr. Levin said some of the patients he's treating needed that capability.
"Intensive care units are seeing Covid-19 patients who require highly dynamic ventilators," said Dr. J.D. Polk, NASA's chief health and medical officer, in a statement. "The intention with VITAL is to decrease the likelihood patients will get to that advanced stage of the disease and require more advanced ventilator assistance."
It was also designed to be flexible with easy maintenance, meaning it can be used in the diverse settings hosting field hospitals, including hotels and convention centers.
"We specialize in spacecraft, not medical device manufacturing," Michael Watkins, JPL director, said in a statement. "But excellent engineering, rigorous testing and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties. When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise and drive."