Many initiatives are underway at CERN and in the wider particle physics community to design and produce medical supplies and equipment. These range from producing sanitiser gel, to developing full-scale ventilators for use in hospitals.
Other initiatives at CERN are to use workshop facilities and 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment, such as masks, components to adapt commercially available masks for clinical use, and critical components for equipment such as ventilators.
The CERN against COVID-19 team has learned of several projects initiated in the physics community to design and build ventilators to address a critical need. These include the high-energy physics community ventilator, HEV, whose development is being led by the LHCb collaboration, the Mechanical Ventilator Milano, MVM project spearheaded by the INFN in Italy and involving physicists from around the world, and another called Openbreath which aims to develop and produce a scalable low-cost lung ventilator. Common to many of these is that the designs will be published using the CERN Open Hardware License, so that they can be reproduced wherever there is a need, and freely adapted to comply with local regulatory frameworks.
They are all being developed in close collaboration with the medical community, within relevant regulatory frameworks, and are in varying stages of development, from prototyping to clinical trials.
Computing and data analysis
CERN is the hub of a vast global computing resource, the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, WLCG, and is also home to the CERN openlab collaboration with key players in the IT industry. This represents a considerable potential resource for fighting the pandemic, with potential applications ranging from the support of therapy and vaccine research, to the deployment of the data-sharing platform Zenodo, and epidemic modelling.
In all of these, CERN is in close contact with the medical community through, for example, the Organization’s collaboration agreement with the World Health Organization.
Other ways in which computing resources are being deployed include the support of a Swiss-government sponsored versusvirus hackathon on 3-5 April, and the deployment of tools for distance learning such as Open Up2U, coordinated by the GÉANT partnership of European national research and education networking (NREN) organisations.
Help to society
The first tangible contribution that CERN made to tackling the emergency in the local region was to make its emergency response teams available to support local ambulance services. This began over the weekend of 28 March. Since then, initiatives have been proposed by CERN personnel who can neither work from home nor on site to contribute to the local logistical effort by using CERN’s vehicle fleet to deliver supplies to those at risk, who need more than any to self-isolate.
CERN is also evaluating its stock of personal protective equipment with a view to donating items such as masks, producing sanitiser gel, and making Perspex barriers to protect those working in public service roles, such as the gendarmeries of the Pays de Gex.