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Breathing life thanks to an innovative automated ventilation system

In 2014, while he was conducting research on cardio pulmonary ventilation, Jean-Christophe Richard, a professor of resuscitation, joined Air Liquide Medical Systems (ALMS) as Medical Director with one foot still squarely planted in the world of research. This is where he developed CPV, an innovative automated ventilation system used in resuscitation during cardiac arrest. Professor Richard has a conviction: “In order to innovate and to meet patient needs, you need to be willing to veer off the beaten path and question yourself to make progress.”

Can you briefly explain CPV (cardio-pulmonary ventilation), the technology you developed at Air Liquide?

CPV is a solution used in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and implanted on a ventilator. This innovative device contributes to improving the quality of patient care because it is entirely automated and compatible with cardiac massage. This technology makes the procedure less risky and frees up the practitioner's hands, allowing him to concentrate on coordinating the team and managing the patient and his/her family. Traditional mechanical ventilation is not compatible with cardiac massage, which can make it potentially dangerous.

How is this a major medical breakthrough?  

In France, for every 100 people who suffer from a cardiac arrest, only five people will survive without after-effects. At the same time, experts agree that ventilation plays a key role in survival. In addition, CPV changes current medical practice by making cardio-pulmonary resuscitation simpler and more effective. It meets the needs of both patients and care providers. That's what makes it a major breakthrough.

Not only is the medical solution itself innovative but the way we developed it is as well. With Air Liquide Medical Systems (ALMS), we signed a special contract that lets me continue to work with the research community. This international network and hands-on approach lets me better understand the main areas of research. This type of strategy is rather new. We had to be bold, and ALMS allows me a level of independence that lets me suggest these kinds of initiatives. As we were developing the project, there was a constant dialogue between the ALMS Research and Development team and the emergency department at the Annecy Genevois Hospital Centre (France), a partner and the site of the project's field tests. The incorporation of a partner into the development process helped us be agile, responsive, and effective; it also meant we could improve our project incrementally over time.

In France, for every 100 people who suffer from a cardiac arrest, only five people will survive without after-effects

Did you face challenges during the project?

Yes, and we still do every day! That's life in a company, in research, and in the medical sector. First, as a company, the challenge always consists of staying focused on patients' needs so we can offer the most concrete solutions possible. In this respect, ALMS took my recommendations into account.

Next, in the field, this type of innovation is welcomed by care providers, but it requires a change in their medical practice. That's another challenge. And why the onboarding process needs to be easy! Our motto has always been to simplify their lives.

To give you a concrete example, we postponed the date we brought the solution to market by a few weeks because, after multiple observations, we noticed these patients exhibited an unusual physiological behavior. These observations led to scientific articles that reached an international audience. If the company hadn't supported this strategy, we would have missed out on an opportunity.

How does your mission illustrate the pioneering spirit that sets Air Liquide apart?

To innovate and to meet patient needs, you have to be willing to veer off the beaten path and question yourself to make real progress. Follow your roadmap, but keep an open mind. Challenge your assumptions and pay attention to your observations. That is often how the greatest advances in medicine happen. Sometimes, that's not easy for companies to do because of financial restraints, limited resources, or a lack of skills, but ALMS has always supported this approach, which ended up driving this project.

What are your takeaways from this project?

The importance of accounting for patient needs and adopting a field-based approach! Many companies are capable of innovating. The question is knowing why you're innovating. In my opinion, innovating just to innovate is the wrong attitude. In the case of this project, the goal was first and foremost to resolve a problem and respond to a need among patients and care providers. For Air Liquide, CPV has been a commercial success that turned the Group into a leader in medical ventilation. More importantly, however, it is a device that has improved the daily lives of patients, families, and care providers. Meeting their needs is a non-negotiable priority at ALMS.


*This interview is part of a series of five interviews with pioneering Air Liquide employees who are helping to move the Group forward and build the world of the future.

Article published on November 05, 2018