BOGOTA – Mexican home appliances manufacturer Mabe Sa De Cv, from Mexico City, became a new member of the med-tech sector after taking the leap forward and joining the scores of companies around the world shifting their traditional manufacturing lines to develop med-tech products to fight COVID-19.
“At Mabe we are a large family dedicated to offering unique solutions to benefit and improve the lives of our consumers. It is for this reason that we decided to support the fight against COVID-19 and put our team and resources to find ways to help,” Pablo Moreno, head of corporate affairs at Mabe, told BioWorld.
The company is now developing three classes of medical devices: splitters, ventilators and aeroboxes. Splitters double the capacity of ventilators while Mabe is developing ventilators as part of a joint project coordinated by the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), and in which Dydetec, from Mexico City, and France’s Zodiac Aerospace are part of. The company is also developing aeroboxes, a key project for Mabe.
“The design, development and innovation team of the Technology and Projects Center, together with Mabe's industrial and manufacturing team, developed, hand in hand with health sector authorities, a solution that will protect health personnel during patient intubation, one of the moments that have been identified as having the highest risk of contagion,” Moreno explained.
The home appliances company, which has a strong brand and footprint in Latin America, aims to develop 30,000 aeroboxes out of its plants in Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.
The aeroboxes are plastic boxes that create a barrier between COVID-19 patients and health workers during the intubation procedures. Their design is based on the design of vegetables cabinets in the refrigerators that Mabe manufactures, a fact that allowed Mabe's team to speed up the design and production of the device.
“In this way, you have access to raw materials and installed capacity to produce and assemble the aerobox very quickly,” the company said.
The modification of the fridge cabinets to convert them into medical devices was inspired by a concept developed by Lai Hsieng Yung, an anesthesiologist at the Mennonite Christian Hospital in Hua Lian, Taiwan, who launched the aerosol box as a crowdfunding and open source project to develop and deploy aeroboxes quickly around the world.
The aerosol box can be manufactured quickly and cheaply using acrylic or transparent polycarbonate at a cost of approximately $67 per unit, the team that launched the initiative said. The box can be cleaned after each intubation and reused.
The Boston Medical Center tested the aerobox and the findings of the simulation were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“We suggest that our ad hoc barrier enclosure provided a modicum of additional protection and could be considered to be an adjunct to standard PPE,” researchers wrote.
However, the authors of the study warned that the aerobox restricted hand movement and requires training before treating patients.
“Operators should be ready to abandon use of the box should airway management prove difficult.”
Mabe has been working on the design and rollout of the product alongside health surveillance agencies of the countries in which it is manufacturing the aeroboxes, including Cofepris in Mexico, Invima in Colombia, and Anmat in Argentina.
“We work hand in hand with health authorities in the product design process and we have validated its functionality in all the countries where we are distributing them,” said Moreno. “In fact, distribution is coordinated through the ministries and secretaries of health of each of the countries where we are donating them.”
Mabe intends to distribute its new med-tech products not only in Mexico, Argentina and Colombia where they are being manufactured, but they will also be distributed to hospitals in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Central America and the Caribbean.
Mabe is not profiting from the devices. The company was founded in 1946 by two Spanish refugees fleeing war. It employs 21,000 people and had sales of more than $3.2 billion in 2019. The company is 52% owned by Mexican investors, and 48% by Haier Smart Home, from Qingdao, China.
"It is time to support and work hand in hand with all sectors, as leaders in the appliance sector in Latin America, we are proud to be able to contribute to contribute to the care of our health professionals and meet the needs of the population," said Marco del Bosque, Mabe’s commercial vice president.