Automated Bag Breathing Unit

Saving Lives With a Low-Cost, Easy-to-Deploy Solution

In response to the urgent local and global requirement for essential patient-focused medical equipment, a team of faculty, researchers, and students at UT Austin, Dell Medical School and the UT Health Sciences Center at San Antonio developed a low-cost, reliable and effective medical breathing device — the Automated Bag Breathing Unit (ABBU) — a ventilator-like device that can be utilized when conventional ventilators are not readily available to provide life-saving support for patients with COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. ABBU is manufactured by ThermoTek,Inc, a FDA approved and ISO certified medical device manufacturer, located in Flower Mound, Texas. 

The ABBU, engineered specifically to extend the life of the AMBU bag by mitigating the shear stresses and wear during mechanical compression, was developed to be an affordable, easy-to-deploy system to meet the rising need of ventilators. State-of-the-art intensive care and emergency room ventilators cost $20,000-$50,000 and portable or transport ventilators cost $8,000-$15,000, and manufacturers are struggling to produce adequate supplies. By contrast, the ABBU is targeted to cost less than $2,000, utilizing readily available industrial components to avoid competition with medical-related parts, thus accelerating the production process while ensuring safety and reliability for patients. The ABBU is an open-source design; for more information, contact

How the ABBU Technology Works

Medical dramas often depict the use of AMBU bags — bag valve masks — to aid manual breathing during resuscitation. Healthcare workers manually squeeze these football-shaped devices to deliver air to patient’s lungs in distress. While these devices are much less expensive than ventilators, it’s neither ethical nor practical to have someone sitting nearby an infectious patient, manually pumping air into their lungs around the clock. But, if the pumping is done by a machine — essentially, a motorized hand — a simple, inexpensive device can be used to perform the work of costly, traditional ventilators and maintain safety of health care workers. 

The Automated Bag Breathing Unit or ABBU is thoughtfully designed with input from ICU pulmonary physicians treating COVID-19 patients and having over 30 years of military experience working with transport ventilators. Thus, ABBU is engineered to be less complicated to manufacture and intuitive to operate by healthcare providers. This creative and simple solution uses easy-to-source industrial-grade and high-reliability parts produced in high volumes, such as windshield wiper motors and caster wheels. The approach of developing a “synchronous mechanical hand” that works with a proven air-delivery mechanism, as opposed to an entirely novel ventilator, will further expedite the FDA regulatory approval to ensure safe and reliable production. 

Evolution of Device Development

What Makes the ABBU Different

  • Unlike its competitors, the design mimics the thumb’s placement and manual compression on the bag, allowing the correct applied pressure and bag response for the patient. 
  • Analog controls are used to adjust the tidal volume, respiratory rate, and inspiration time, as well as a patient assist mode to synchronize with the patient’s breathing. Audible and light alarms for overpressure and underpressure airway pressure serve as a safe-guard during operation.
  • Designed for use with a 6-foot breathing circuit to allow ease of use during patient care. 
  • Design backed by consultation and work with pulmonary physicians and clinicians from the Dell Medical School and UT Health San Antonio and mechanical, electrical, biomedical and industrial engineers from the Cockrell School of Engineering. 
  • The ABBU intentionally utilizes widely available components not directly related to the medical industry, avoiding potential supply chain sourcing shortages.
  • Easy-to-use design and enclosure decals obviate need for specialized medical workers to operate, unlike full ventilators. 
  • ABBU automates an approved manual resuscitation hand-held method for use with an AMBU bag that reliably ventilates patients who are not breathing or not breathing adequately. AMBU bags are widely available, making them a reliable resource.
  • FDA Emergency Use Authorization has been filed for ABBU. 

View the ABBU Ventilator Instruction Manual

Investment Opportunity

At a time unlike any we have seen, UT Austin is calling on our closest friends and strongest supporters to provide emergency philanthropic funding to speed solutions with the potential to save lives around the world. The ABBU team is currently raising funds to help complete testing of the device, obtain FDA approval, begin production with a manufacturer and provide the system to medical facilities treating COVID-19 patients and to continue with ABBU developments to improve functions and portability.

We ask you to join us in developing this innovative technology and supporting the manufacturing of 1000 ABBU units for deployment into vulnerable communities around our country and international through this unique philanthropic funding opportunity to raise $9M.

To learn more about how you can help put the Automated Bag Breathing Unit into action, contact Michael Barasch, Senior Director of Development, Cockrell School of Engineering, at or 412-720-4918.


Innovation Team

Thomas Milner, Ph.D., Professor and Researcher, Department of Biomedical Engineering, UT Austin
Stephen Derdak, D.O., Pulmonologist and Critical Care Medicine Specialist, UT Health San Antonio
Richard Wettstein, M.Ed., Respiratory Care Therapist, UT Health San Antonio
Marc D. Feldman, M.D., Cardiologist, UT Health San Antonio
Paul Harford, M.D., ICU Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist, Dell Medical School, UT Austin
Aydin Zahedivash, B.S., M.D., M.B.A., Stanford University
Ruben Rathnasingham, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Health Product Innovation, Health Ecosystem; Managing Director of Texas Health CoLab; Associate Professor of Medical Education, Dell Medical School, UT Austin
Nishi Viswanathan, M.B.B.S., M.B.A., Director of Texas Health Catalyst, Dell Medical School, UT Austin; Adjunct Associate Professor, College of Pharmacy, UT Austin
Van Truskett, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Texas Innovation Center and Executive Director of Technology Innovation Development, Office of Technology Commercialization, UT Austin

Project Team

Thomas Milner, Ph.D., electrical and biomedical engineering
Jonathan Valvano, Ph.D., electrical and biomedical engineering
Arnold Estrada, Ph.D., biomedical engineering
Scott Jenney, B.S., industrial engineering
Austin McElroy, B.S., electrical and software architecture and circuit design
Nitesh Katta, Ph.D., electrical, software and biomedical engineering
Aydin Zahedivash, B.S., M.D., M.B.A., biomedical engineering
Tim Phillips, Ph.D., mechanical engineering
Aleksandra Gruslova, Ph.D., usability and pre-clinical studies
Andrew Cabe, B.S., usability and pre-clinical studies
Robert LaSalle, B.S., mechanical engineering and productionization

Regulatory Team

Elisa Maldonado-Holmertz, B.A.
Andrew Cockerham
, B.S.
Sarah Mayes
, Ph.D.
Peter Miller
, B.S.
Nishi Viswanathan, M.B.B.S., M.B.A.
Van Truskett, Ph.D.