The Sri Lanka Inventors Commission has allocated more than Rs. 10 million to develop prototypes of some 45 inventions, with patents being filed for 27 products, many of which could be of critical importance in fighting COVID-19. Innovations have been occurring at a great rate all over the island since late March, the head of [...]


Inventors in haste get help to lock in patent rights against theft

Lankans’ ingenuity unbound to fight deadly virus

Young inventors with a mobile machine to spray disinfectant

The Sri Lanka Inventors Commission has allocated more than Rs. 10 million to develop prototypes of some 45 inventions, with patents being filed for 27 products, many of which could be of critical importance in fighting COVID-19.

Innovations have been occurring at a great rate all over the island since late March, the head of the Commission, Professor Rangika Halwathura, said, but the lack of attention to patent rights was an issue of concern.

“Most of the inventors have gone to various media platforms and published their product or innovation without patent rights. This will lead to Sri Lanka losing intellectual property rights on products that belong to the country,” he said.

To prevent this loss, the Sri Lanka Inventors Commission has taken the initiative to collect all inventions via social media and from universities and evaluate them to judge their feasibility.

“Most of these inventors are not engineers or doctors. We at the commission wish to lend a helping hand and work closely with the inventors, monitoring the inventions day and night once they are subjected to evaluation,” he explained.

Due to the curfew, the National Intellectual Property Office is issuing patent rights for inventions online.

In the vanguard of the rush to assist the health sector fight the COVID-19 pandemic is Vega Innovations, a subsidiary of the CodeGen group of companies.

Vega has designed a disinfection chamber for people entering a building or premises, Director of Vega Innovations, Beshan Kulapala said.

He explained that unlike most disinfection chambers that use alcohol to disinfect bacteria, Vega opted to use ozonated water.

“Before entering a building, a person will walk into one of these installed chambers and within a short span of 20 seconds is sprayed with ozonated water in a mist that won’t completely soak the person,” he explained.

Sixteen units had been built and the company was gearing to manufacture at least 10 to 15 chambers a day for public and private institutions. The product was initially tested by the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) to ascertain its efficacy.

Two chambers have already been installed at the Ministry of Health and the Maradana Police Station.

Vega has also, in 10 days, developed a low-cost scalable ventilator capable of supporting a COVID-19 patient. The ventilator, built under the supervision of Dr. Chandana Karunarathna, Consultant in Anesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine at the Ministry of Health, is awaiting ministry approval to enter production.

“It is a known fact that this pandemic has put the lives of medical staff at great risk and these innovations can save a lot of lives and can be very cost-effective compared to using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE),” said Dr. Pubudu Peliarachchi, senior house officer of Ratnapura Hospital and one of many doctors who have taken pains to promote and assist innovations to fight the pandemic.

One innovation Dr. Peliarachchi has extended his support to is a robot built by Nimal Kumarasiri, a senior technical manager at Hirdaramani Industries Bangladesh.

Mr. Kumarasiri whose vacation in Sri Lanka has been forcibly prolonged by the lockdown, said he had thought of putting his skills to use during his stay here.

“The idea was to minimise the need to use PPE and to reduce direct contact between the patient and doctors. I built a robot that could perform the basic needs of a patient such as serving food to patients and communicating with doctors when the need arises,” he said.

Mr. Kumarasiri explained that the robot, which cost around Rs.100,000, could be directed by doctors using a remote control. An inbuilt camera could rotate and position itself to focus on parts of the patient, and a patient could communicate with a doctor through a microphone. Doctors could control all activities through a tablet.

The inventor is working on refinements such as an infrared thermometer attached to the robot that could monitor a patient’s temperature.

Director of Latex Lanka International, Sanjeewa Vijaya Sri Nawarathna and three colleagues have built a viral testing booth that allows health officials to collect samples from patients without having direct contact with them.

Mr. Nawarathna said use of the booth would obviate the need for doctors and nurses to wear PPEs, which were not cost-effective as they were limited to single use.

He explained that special gloves built into the booth inhibited the risk of infection from patients. The booth is lit inside and has a microphone and speaker to communicate with the patient. The door of the booth is completely sealed with silicon. The booth is built onto a wheeled chassis for easy movement inside the ward.

According to Mr. Nawarathna, 23 units have already been built and distributed to hospitals including those at Ratnapura, Negombo, Chilaw, Colombo, Karapitiya, Kurunegala, Gampaha and Kalubowila. Eighteen of these booths have been sponsored by private companies and individuals.

“The first booth took us 36 hours to build and gradually we speeded up to be manufacturing four booths in three days. We are hoping to build them in a shorter time span to cater to the urgent needs of the hospitals island-wide,” he said.

Mr. Nawarathna said the main challenge his team faced was to find the necessary raw materials and transport them while the curfew was on.

He said the booth had been inspired by equipment used in South Korea, adding, “We just came across only a photograph and from there we developed the specifications to suit our needs”.

Now, he added, inspired by the Sri Lankan innovation, a viral testing booth has been built in a hospital in Los Angeles.

The inventions keep coming: Chanaka Pathum Bandara, a graduate of the Agricultural Faculty at the University of Ruhuna, has built a foot-operated door lever that could help curtail the spreading of the disease.

“This equipment was made using raw materials purchased from the local hardware store, and as of now four units have already been made,” he said.

Sahan Ranasinghe, an electronic engineer in a private firm, has built a patient inspection chamber with remote monitoring that will helps doctors and nurses monitor patients in a ward from a separate room.

Mr. Ranasinghe said medical staff and patients could communicate using a microphone fitted to the chamber, with staff using monitors to view the patient.

The chamber could also help in the collection of samples from patients. Once a patient leaves a sample and exits from the chamber the unit could be disinfected before staff enter to collect the sample.

“One unit has already been installed in a hospital in Kalutara and the second one is being made. If two people work on construction, it will take about two days to complete one unit,” Mr. Ranasinghe said.

Young guns use science to fight pandemic
Inventions to help fight the pandemic such as a robot to assist doctors attending patients, an air purifier, a ventilator and mobile phone software have been developed by students at the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University.

Students of the engineering, medical and the information technology faculties worked under the guidance of a panel of professors to create the innovative machinery.

They said the robot has the capability to serve eight patients at the same time in terms of food and medicine, thus reducing the number of times a doctor or a nurse would have to come in direct contact with the patient.

The ventilator built by the young inventors cost about Rs. 1 million, much less than normal ventilators that cost about Rs. 4 million to build.

The mobile app, named Curec, will enable a patient to share data and information with a doctor and this will help identify problems without loss of time. An inbuilt GPS can help authorities trace the last-known location of an infected patient so that health authorities can direct people who had come in contact with the patient to quarantine centres.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.