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Ventilator manufacturer CorVent Medical opens new headquarters in Fargo

A company that was assembled in a hurry at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CorVent Medical made Fargo its permanent home Tuesday, Jan. 11, at North Dakota State University.

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CorVent Medical CEO Richard Walsh speaks about the company's new ventilator technology on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, at the NDSU Research and Technology Park.
David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — A new company now calls the North Dakota State University Research and Technology Park home as CorVent Medical commenced operations Tuesday, Jan. 11.

The ventilator design and manufacturing firm was founded at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, fielding a team working remotely. As the pandemic wore on, CorVent CEO Richard Walsh realized it was time to find a central office.

A local tie from one of the company’s employees led CorVent to consider settling in Fargo.

Dr. Ben Boedeker was CorVent’s Director of Telemedicine at the time. Additionally, he is the founder of Lincoln Therapeutics, a firm based out of the University of North Dakota’s Center for Innovation working to develop pain management products for the military. On Boedeker’s recommendation, Walsh and CorVent began looking into Fargo as a possible home base.

“He’s a trusted individual, and he pointed us in this direction,” Walsh said.

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A visit to Fargo in 2021 followed for Walsh and CorVent CFO Travis Murphy, after which they were sold on the city and the state.

“We really found that it’s a very welcoming community,” Walsh said. “We had a lot of places we could go, but at the end of the day, we found that Fargo is where we wanted to pitch our tent.”

Sweetening the deal was a $117,000 bioscience innovation grant issued by the state to CorVent. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who chairs the committee overseeing the grants, credited the North Dakota Bioscience Association as well as the Legislature for starting and funding the grant program.

“That has continued to open the door to bring more and more companies here because they see the support that the state puts forward towards bioscience,” Goehring said. “This just continues to bring companies like CorVent.”

A silent lifesaver

CorVent’s first product, the RESPONSE-19 ventilator, was quietly on display Tuesday. It's a lightweight, nearly silent ventilator Walsh said was developed and produced in six months, a much faster timeline than the usual three-year process to create a ventilator.

That process began when COVID-19 reached the United States and the federal government called on industry leaders to ratchet up production of ventilators. CorVent has since sold hundreds of its RESPONSE-19 ventilators, Walsh said, including to the North Dakota Department of Health.

Owing to its adaptable technology, the RESPONSE-19 ventilator can be used right out of the box to provide ventilation to a patient, Walsh said. “It’s designed to quickly understand what the patient is going through and adapt to that scenario,” he explained.

All told, the unit weighs 12 pounds, which is considerably lighter than common ventilators, which can weigh up to 100 pounds.

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Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney , a surgeon, recalled his days in residency by noting that moving a patient, bed and ventilator was always a challenge. The task would have been considerably easier had CorVent’s ventilators existed at the time, he added.

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Jim Jake shows off features on the ventilators made by CorVent Medical on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, at the NDSU Research and Technology Park.
David Samson/The Forum

The RESPONSE-19 features only 112 parts, which is a fraction of the number of parts found in standard ventilators, CorVent’s Global Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jim Jake explained.

The comparatively small number of parts means the unit requires zero maintenance other than cleaning for the first five years of use. Walsh said the design reduces the cost of ownership by 70% compared to other ventilators.

The cost of the RESPONSE-19 ventilator is $15,000, Jake said. Other ventilators can cost up to $60,000.

'The beginning of something special'

CorVent plans to ramp up Fargo operations by hiring 100 people over the next three years. Walsh said engineering positions are currently open as the company shifts all of its operations, including research, development and manufacturing, to North Dakota.

The next generation of CorVent products — including at-home ventilators, CPAP machines, BiPAP machines and an improved version of the RESPONSE-19 — will be created locally, he noted.

Outgoing NDSU President Dean Bresciani said CorVent’s arrival was a welcome addition to the research park.

“NDSU has a very special responsibility to the state of North Dakota” with regard to research, he explained.

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Bresciani also touted CorVent as a career opportunity for outgoing NDSU students. “It’s so exciting to be a part of this exemplary example of what a major research university can do anywhere in the nation, but I like it a lot better that we’re doing it here in Fargo,” he said.

Mahoney said the city always seeks to bring in new research, specifically in the field of bioscience. “We’ve always had oil and gas and agriculture research, which is phenomenal, and the university has done great, but the biosciences are really part of what we want to get into,” he remarked.

The mayor challenged CorVent to match the success of fellow biotech firm Aldevron. In 2021, Aldevron produced hundreds of millions of doses of DNA which were used in the COVID-19 vaccines.

Walsh was optimistic CorVent could rise to the occasion. “This is the beginning of something special,” he said. “We hope to be a cornerstone medical device company here in North Dakota with the help of the community."

Readers can reach InForum reporter Thomas Evanella at tevanella@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella

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