GM collaborates with Ventec on ventilator production for coronavirus patients

Alan Boyle
Ventec Life Systems’ VOCSN device combines ventilation, oxygen, cough assistance, suction and a nebulizer function. (Ventec via YouTube)

GM and Bothell, Wash.-based Ventec Life Systems say they’re collaborating to increase production of Ventec’s next-generation ventilators, which will be sorely needed to serve waves of patients during the coronavirus outbreak.

“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” Ventec CEO Chris Kiple said in a news release.  “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster.  This partnership will help save lives.”

A nationwide supply gap in ventilators has been identified as one of the urgent challenges as hospitals prepare for what could be hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 patients requiring respiratory care.

Federal health officials say they’re drawing upon a strategic reserves of ventilators, and they’re looking into converting tens of thousands of ventilators that were built for other medical purposes. The GM-Ventec collaboration opens a new front in the campaign to serve the need, following through on GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra’s pledge to help fill the ventilator gap.

“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Barra said. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”

Founded in 2013, Ventec has developed a portable life-support system called VOCSN that combines ventilation, oxygen, cough assistance, suction and nebulization (medication delivery) services in one suitcase-sized device. That portability will make it easier to get the machines where they’re needed during COVID-19 crisis.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the Bothell company was producing 150 machines per month, but it’s aiming to increase that rate to thousands per month, or even tens of thousands per month. The newly announced collaboration will make it possible for Ventec to leverage GM’s logistic, purchasing and manufacturing expertise as it works to hit that goal.

The GM-Ventec team-up was facilitated by StopTheSpread.org, a private-sector campaign that brings together business leaders across the country to support government efforts to counter the outbreak.

“This is a vital step in delivering relief to our healthcare system, which is threatened by the spread of COVID-19,” StopTheSpread.org said in a statement. “As this virus continues to endanger the lives of countless Americans, StopTheSpread.org is working to unite the business community around a common threat to our economy and our way of life.”

In January, Ventec reported raising more than $20 million in a Series E funding round, primarily from existing friends-and-family investors. That round brought total funding to $60 million. The company had 111 employees at the end of last year but is ramping up its workforce to support increased production.

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