A new website is taking on one of the biggest issues of the coronavirus era: the shortage of N95 masks and other PPE, or personal protective equipment. Project N95 connects healthcare institutions that urgently need equipment—including masks, isolation gowns, and ventilators—with suppliers around the world that stock them or that have the capacity to produce them.
The online platform now serves as an intermediary between the two parties, or as it calls itself, a “medical equipment clearinghouse.”The parties in need of items fill out a short form, noting what equipment they require and in what quantities, along with any price constraints.
So far, the site has received requests from more than 1,900 institutions (likely more by the time this is published), which include hospitals and local governments, requesting more than 87 million pieces of equipment. The demand continually updates on the site in real-time.
On the other end, suppliers and manufacturers also fill out a form, after which the rapid-response team of volunteers vets them on a phone call to check regulations such as FDA registrations, and export licenses for international suppliers. That team then acts as a mediator in finding the best matches, grouping smaller buyers if necessary to fulfill minimum orders from suppliers, before connecting the two parties to discuss logistics and shipping.
Because the project is so early in its infancy, no equipment has yet been distributed, but as of Tuesday evening, it has matched more than 13 million pieces of equipment, mainly masks. The project is gaining lots of support from prominent figures, such as Mark Cuban and Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator of Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama.