Helen Xun, a 2015 Gonzaga University biochemistry graduate, is on the front lines of the scientific battle against COVID-19. A fourth-year student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Xun has taken this year off to co-found a biotech startup that is using 3D printing technologies to rapidly prototype medical devices.

In mid-March, Xun and colleagues focused on developing a prototype for 3D-printed ventilator adapters, known as “splitters,” with more clinical control settings for the possible treatment of victims of COVID-19. 

Aimed to address a severe shortage of ventilators at that time, the project allows for one ventilator to treat multiple patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, a form of lung failure that is a leading cause of death for COVID-19 patients.

The project awaits approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization. Approval will allow for the splitters to be used in certain clinical settings. Once approved by the FDA, the team plans to publish its design for others to use.

“The goal here is to quickly get this technology to hospitals around the world — and right to the people who need it the most,” said Xun.