FARGO – A new company now names North Dakota State University’s Research and Technology Park when CorVent Medical began operations on Tuesday, Jan. 11.
The ventilator design and manufacture company was founded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and employs a team that works remotely. As the pandemic continued, CorVent CEO Richard Walsh realized it was time to find a headquarters.
Local contact by an employee of the company led CorVent to consider settling in Fargo.
Dr. At the time, Ben Boedeker was the director of telemedicine at CorVent. He is also the founder of Lincoln Therapeutics, a company based in the University of North Dakota’s Center for Innovation that develops pain management products for the military. On Boedeker’s recommendation, Walsh and CorVent began investigating Fargo as a possible home base.
“He’s a trustworthy person and he’s pointed us in that direction,” said Walsh.
A visit to Fargo in 2021 followed for Walsh and CorVent CFO Travis Murphy, after which they were sold to the city and state.
“We really found it to be a very welcoming community,” said Walsh. “We had a lot of places to visit, but at the end of the day we found Fargo to be where we wanted to pitch our tent.”
The deal was sweetened by a government grant of US $ 117,000 for life science innovations to CorVent. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who chairs the scholarship oversight committee, praised the North Dakota Bioscience Association and lawmakers for launching and funding the scholarship program.
“That opened the door to bring more and more companies here because they see the support that the state is giving the life sciences,” said Göhring. “That helps companies like CorVent.”
CorVent’s first product, the RESPONSE-19 ventilator, was quietly on display on Tuesday. It’s a lightweight, near-silent ventilator that Walsh said was designed and manufactured in six months, which is a much faster timeline than the standard three-year ventilator manufacturing process.
This process began when COVID-19 reached the United States and the federal government urged industry leaders to increase ventilator production. CorVent has since sold hundreds of its RESPONSE-19 ventilators, Walsh said, to the North Dakota Department of Health, among others.
Thanks to its adaptive technology, the RESPONSE-19 ventilator can be used right out of the box to ventilate a patient, Walsh said. “It is designed to quickly understand what the patient is going through and adapt to that scenario,” he explained.
All in all, the device weighs 12 pounds, which is considerably lighter than traditional ventilators, which can weigh up to 100 pounds.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, a surgeon, recalled his residency by noting that moving a patient, bed, and ventilator was always a challenge. The task would have been a lot easier if there had been CorVent ventilators at the time, he added.
The RESPONSE-19 has just 112 parts, a fraction of the number of parts found in standard ventilators, said Jim Jake, CorVent global vice president of sales and marketing.
Due to the comparatively small number of parts, the device is maintenance-free in the first five years of use except for cleaning. Walsh said the design cuts operating costs 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 expand Fargo operations by hiring 100 people over the next three years. Walsh said engineering positions are currently open as the company is moving all of its activities, including research, development and manufacturing, to North Dakota.
The next generation of CorVent products – including home ventilators, CPAP machines, BiPAP machines and an upgraded version of the RESPONSE-19 – will be developed locally, he noted.
Outgoing NDSU President Dean Bresciani said the arrival of CorVent would be a welcome addition to the research park.
“The NDSU has a special responsibility to the state of North Dakota,” in terms of research, he said.
Bresciani also touted CorVent as a career opportunity for outgoing NDSU students. “It’s so exciting to be part of this exemplary example of what a great research university can do anywhere in the country, but I like it much better that we are doing this here in Fargo,” he said.
Mahoney said the city is always keen to bring in new research, especially in the life sciences field. “We have always done oil and gas and agricultural research, which is phenomenal and the university did a great job, but the life sciences are really part of what we want to achieve,” he noted.
The mayor challenged CorVent to keep up with the success of the other biotech company Aldevron. In 2021, Aldevron produced hundreds of millions of doses of DNA that was used in the COVID-19 vaccines.
Walsh was optimistic that CorVent could be up to the situation. “This is the beginning of something special,” he said. “We hope, with the help of the community, to be a cornerstone of the medical technology company here in North Dakota.”