Ballarat's Gekko Systems will proceed with its ventilator project after securing state government support.
The prototype was built by Gekko co-founder and technical director Sandy Gray, in his shed outside Miners Rest in just a week.
With the support of other Ballarat experts, including from Gekko's technical team, the Committee for Ballarat, the medical sector, and 3D printing engineers, he completed the first prototype for a valve system that could help a patient in respiratory distress to continue breathing.
The machines are in short supply in intensive care units across the world, and Mr Gray said his prototype could be used in remote locations with just a car battery and an oxygen bottle.
Gekko Systems, based in Ballarat, is a world-leader in gold mining equipment and research - the valve system used in the ventilator is an adaptation of one of Mr Gray's first mining inventions - as well as bio-energy production.
On Thursday morning, Gekko found out it had secured the funding, according to managing director Elizabeth Lewis-Gray.
"This is the best day this year," she said.
"It means we can get to help save lives - sometimes you can feel a bit powerless in this environment, so it means we can do something and contribute, and showcase the ability that Gekko and Ballarat has, and it gives us an opportunity for our staff to have projects to work on."
The Ballarat community also donated $150,000, including a sizeable donation from the Buninyong and District Community Bank.
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That community support was crucial, Ms Lewis-Gray said - contributors played a "super-essential role".
"I think the government saw the regional support and thought it's a project worth funding, and it's achievable financially," she said.
"We've got some fantastic people in the community who have terrific skills that are supporting us, and it's just a great opportunity to see if we can make it work."
The team will get to work immediately on preparing the prototype for the next stage, working through the long weekend.
"(The state government funding) will help with Therapeutic Goods Administration approvals, final prototyping and testing, and procurement and manufacturing strategy," Ms Lewis-Gray said.
"The big hurdle will be meeting the TGA approvals, but we believe we can make it work."
Sounding jubilant over the phone, Ms Lewis-Gray said she and Mr Gray did take a quick moment to celebrate.
"We had a lot of high fiving happening in the kitchen," she said.
A state government media release noted Richmond-based Grey Innovation received a $500,000 grant to work on its own ventilator - the state government intends to order 2000 locally-made ventilators, with the first Victorian-produced machines potentially available in June.
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This will support the 1000 or so ventilators currently in use in Victorian hospitals, and there are more on order from overseas as part of a $1.6 billion investment in medical equipment and consumables.
"Once established, the fast-tracked local industry stands to provide a material boost to Victoria's, and potentially Australia's, supply of ventilators, which are a vital part of the intensive-care treatment in acute coronavirus cases," the media statements said.
Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula said in a statement local ventilator production would be "fast-tracked" to help hospitals care for patients.
"A local manufacturer of these life-saving machines will help us respond to coronavirus cases and help save Victorian and Australian lives," he said.
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