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Metran boosts ventilator production to save COVID-19 patients

As soon as he became Metran’s president, Dan Nitta had to scramble to address surging demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As soon as he became Metran’s president, Dan Nitta had to scramble to address surging demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The name, Metran, is intended to mean “Tran-san’s medical company.” Dan’s father, the Vietnamese founder and chairman who goes by the Japanese name of Kazufuku Nitta, coined it by combining “Tran” from his Vietnamese name, Tran Ngoc Phuc, and “med” from “medical.” Since its foundation, the company has worked closely with clinical doctors, including Katsuyuki Miyasaka, currently a professor emeritus at St. Luke’s International University, to develop its technology. The development process of HFO, which revolutionized ventilation of newborns, is chronicled in a book titled, “Wagakuni no Kindai Shinseiji Iryo Hatten no Kiseki” (“History of the development of neonatal care in Japan”), by Hiroshi Nishida. In natural human breathing, air is taken in and pushed out of the lungs at low pressure generated by the lungs. But ventilators use a high external pressure to push in air, which causes stress to lungs and bronchi. Premature infants, whose respiratory organs are underdeveloped, often need to be ventilated for a long period, making it necessary to use ventilation that is more gentle on the lungs. HFO was developed to achieve this.

In recognition of the “development of a ventilator that saves lives of extremely low birth weight infants,” which has supported medical professionals treating newborns, the government gave the industry minister’s award of the Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Awards program to Phuc, Miyasaka and Satoshi Nakagawa, division chief of Critical Care Medicine at the National Center for Child Health and Development in 2018.

Wish to save all lives

Phuc founded Metran in 1984, wishing to “save all lives that can be saved.” Developing ventilators for premature infants was a significantly risky endeavor for an SME like Metran. The ventilator can directly affect such infants’ lives and requires delicate control of ventilation due to the tiny size of premature babies’ respiratory organs. But with Phuc’s strong determination and technological knowhow, Metran overcame this challenge. Another factor was its development process with repeated cycles of creating a prototype, testing it in the actual clinical environment and analyzing data to optimize the final product. The company’s effort bore fruit in the form of the world’s first commercially manufactured HFO ventilator, which became the last line of defense to save the lives of newborns.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the power and flexibility of SMEs to develop technology. The world faces wide-ranging issues amid an accelerated pace of economic development and changing industrial structures, not to speak of the threat of COVID-19 infection. And that highlights the presence of companies like Metran, which has a strong sense of mission and management philosophy.


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