18 April 2020

respiratory masks 500x500.jpgIn an Australian first, millions of respirator and surgical masks made by Adelaide packing company Detmold will be tested at UniSA and Flinders University laboratories to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

The State Government is allocating $450,000 for the project where more than 20 million masks will be produced and tested each month for local and national markets.

In announcing the testing facilities today, Premier Steven Marshall said the State Government’s strong plan to protect South Australians during the coronavirus pandemic was fostering the development of critical local medical capability.

“Making and testing respirators and surgical masks in Adelaide is exactly the type of innovative response required to provide Australia with the equipment needed to halt the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” said Premier Marshall.

“This is an outstanding example of government, universities and business coming together to work in the national interest in the most challenging of times.”

Professor Emily Hilder, Director of UniSA’s Future Industries Institute at Mawson Lakes, where the testing will take place, said the University was excited to collaborate with Flinders University to support local testing of masks.

“This both improves our capacity to respond to the immediate demands due to COVID-19 and also provides new opportunities that will support the long-term viability of manufacturing businesses in South Australia, Professor Hilder said.

SA Health Minister Wade said the testing facilities at the two universities would provide ongoing assurance to the public of the quality and safety of equipment being used in our hospitals.

“I commend the initiative of the University of South Australia and Flinders University for the important role they are playing to improve the delivery of this vital protective medical equipment to Australian health workers,” said Minister Wade.

Innovation and Skills Minister David Pisoni said the locally made medical equipment would start rolling off the production line in May.

“In these unprecedented circumstances, science, research, innovation and collaboration have never been more important.

“The State Government is determined to do everything we can to support industry and research to fight COVID-19 and minimise the impact on our state.

“China normally produces most of the global supply of face masks, however this has been significantly disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Face masks such as the respirator P2/N95 and level 3 surgical masks need to be tested to strict manufacturing standards to protect frontline health workers, and usually testing is undertaken in the United States, taking around three weeks.

“With these new testing facilities at UniSA and Flinders University, we will be able to deliver this medical equipment to hospitals within weeks,” he said.

Last month, the State and Commonwealth Governments commissioned Detmold, a South Australian packaging company, to establish a respirator (P2/N95 masks) and surgical mask (Level 3) manufacturing capability in Brompton, producing 45 million face masks for SA Health and 100 million for the Federal Government’s National Medical Stockpile.

Professor Karen Reynolds, Director Medical Device Partnering Program and Dean (Research) College of Science and Engineering Flinders University, said the facility would bring together an impressive array of research strength to ensure the protective equipment used by South Australia’s health professionals keeps them safe.

“In order to protect our vital hospital staff, face masks have to meet rigorous standards – they need to filter out bacteria, resist blood, withstand wear and tear, and yet still be easy to breathe through,” she said.

Professor Caroline McMillen, Chief Scientist of South Australia, said it was excellent to see how a team of outstanding researchers in SA had mobilised to collaborate with industry to support the community fight against COVID-19.

“It is this type of collaboration that delivers new ways of thinking to drive the innovation required not only to address an immediate challenge but to build the capability and resilience that is important for the future,” she said.



Media contact: Candy Gibson office +61 8 8302 0961 mobile: +61 434 605 142  email: candy.gibson@unisa.edu.au
Lead researcher:
Professor Emily Hilder office: +61 8 8302 6292 mobile: +61 418 170 085  email: emily.hilder@unisa.edu.au

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