Could old ventilators be a secret weapon against COVID-19?


A pair of medtech industry veterans has formed a not-for-profit corporation to obtain and repair used ventilators for patients fighting COVID-19.

Co-Vents has six FDA-approved and ISO-certified ventilator service centers lined up to do the work in New Jersey, Tennessee, California, Illinois and Georgia, according to co-founder Michael Raymer. The organization is seeking decommissioned Puritan Bennett, Philips/Respironics and CareFusion critical care ventilators to refurbish,  Raymer told Medical Design & Outsourcing in an interview.

Co-Vents will buy or accept donations of old ventilators from hospitals, rental firms and brokers, Raymer said. If a ventilator is beyond repair, the shops will salvage the most expensive working parts and use them to repair other machines.

With the help of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Co-Vents has obtained a $300,000 grant from a private foundation to start purchasing the machines so it can offer them at a fixed price to the national or state stockpiles once they’re repaired, according to Raymer. Proceeds from ventilator sales will go back into repairing and shipping others. Co-Vent will also pay for ventilator parts, labor and shipping, and aims for a turnaround time for just over a week. In the next two months, the organization aims to deliver 500 to 1,500 repaired or refurbished ventilators.

“Our goal is not to distribute directly to hospitals because we don’t want to encourage hoarding,” Raymer said.

The Co-Vents team knows its way around ventilators. Now a business consultant and chief strategy officer for investment and networking platform AngelMD, Raymer was general manager of clinical information systems for ventilator manufacturer Puritan Bennett from 1988 to 1998. He formed Co-Vents with his former boss at Puritan Bennett, Paul L. Woodring. Woodring spent 19 years at that company, serving as chief engineer, VP of engineering, VP and general manager. Woodring also worked for six years as president of Respironics’ hospital division.

William “Chip” Furniss has signed on as engineering manager for Co-Vents. A principal partner for product incubator and design consultancy Spectrum Biomedics, Furniss helped develop the first microprocessor ventilator at Puritan Bennett and went on to become a business unit manager there. Furniss later served as senior director of clinical research at Respironics and VP of surgical equipment R&D at Bausch + Lomb.

(Co-Vents is not alone in its mission to repair and redeploy old ventilators. According to a report by The Associated Press, fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy is doing the same, at the request of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.)

Raymer said he and Woodring came up with the idea for Co-Vents about two weeks ago when news started coming out about ventilator shortages and automakers like General Motors and Ford gearing up to manufacture the lifesaving machines. They called the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for help, and found an Indianapolis firm that helped them incorporate the organization in 24 hours and file an expedited form for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.

“We really did it because Paul and I had seen what was going on in New York and we called each other and said, ‘There are ways to get ventilators to patients instead of sharing ventilators or trying to convert a C-PAP device to a ventilator,’” Raymer said. “We think it’s a pretty remarkable story.”

“Our team could not stand by and watch patients suffer without access to ICU ventilators,” added  Woodring, who is Co-Vents’ CEO. “Over the past three decades, we have designed, built, manufactured and sold the leading ventilators in the world. We have assembled an all-star roster from those businesses to help fill this 90-day ventilator gap for our country while new ventilator production ramps up.”

Raymer wrote a blog post for AngelMD about the ventilator refurbishing mission.More information on Co-Vents’ efforts is available here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *