A year ago, safety Jake Thieneman placed himself on the radars of prospective NFL teams with a strong showing during his pro day at Purdue.
Now, as a member of the 49ers, he is sheltering-in-place and working out in the basement of his parents’ home in Carmel, Indiana. He also is trying to do his part to lend assistance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has shut down the sporting world -- not to mention normal life.
Thieneman teamed up with Boston-based The Ventilator Project, a quickly organized non-profit that plans to produce up to 60,000 low-cost ventilators a month while fears continue that there are not enough of the devices to meet the demands.
“There will always be a need for ventilators,” Thieneman told NBC Sports Bay Area. “There’s constantly a need. Globally, there’s an even bigger need.
“Ventilator shortages are not just a unique problem during this time, during COVID-19. Globally, there’s a need for ventilators in developing countries.”
Thieneman entered the NFL last year as an undrafted rookie. He initially signed with the New York Giants, then spent time with the Indianapolis Colts during training camp. The 49ers signed him to their practice squad in mid-December.
Thieneman remained with the 49ers through their run to the Super Bowl. Then, the club signed him to their 90-man offseason roster immediately following the season.
Thieneman, a mechanical engineering major, is splitting his time between preparing himself for whenever the NFL opens its doors and doing his part to lend assistance during the pandemic.
Alex Frost, founder of FloraBot, and Tyler Mantel, founder of Watertower Robotics, co-founded The Ventilator Project on March 20. Thieneman got involved through Mantel’s brother, a close friend from his time at Purdue.
Thieneman’s role is to provide publicity and help in the fund-raising for the project. Three days after the plan was hatched, the project had 15 engineers helping with the design of the ventilators, he said. Now, there are approximately 200 individuals working on the task.
The goal is for the non-profit organization to deliver ventilators as quickly as possible to meet the needs of COVID-19 patients in the United States and around the world.
A hospital-grade ventilator can cost up to $50,000. The Ventilator Project aims to provide the essentials without the unnecessary accessories and for just a fraction of the cost. The expectation is to provide ventilators that cost no more than $2,000 apiece.
“From the start, it was designed to be entirely sourced with parts that are not currently in the medical supply industry so that we’re not taking away medical supplies that hospitals and other networks need,” Thieneman said.
The Ventilator Project will use materials that are readily available and can go to manufacturing quickly, he said.
“Currently, we have a working prototype that is fully functional,” Thieneman said. “We’re going through the FDA approval process right now.
“We expect, after FDA approval, to be able to produce 1,000 units in the first month, then hopefully scale up to 60,000 a month after that.”
The initial fundraising goal is $100,000, Thieneman said, which would get the project through FDA approval and the first 1,000 units. Then, as the production increases so will the costs.
“We’ll need additional funds so we can scale up our manufacturing to full scale,” Thieneman said.
For more information on the non-profit organization and to make a donation, visit their website: TheVentilatorProject.org.