Chris Kiple, CEO of Ventec Life Systems, a ventilator manufacturer in Bothell, Washington, that has seen a large increase in demand since the coronavirus pandemic. / Reuters

 

General Motors announced Friday evening it was joining with a Seattle-area medical device manufacturer and StopTheSpread.org, a nationwide private-sector coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic, to help ramp up production of critically needed ventilators.

GM said it will provide support in the form of purchasing, manufacturing expertise and logistics to Ventec Life Systems, based in Bothell, Washington. The company says it has introduced 10 respiratory devices and holds more than 40 patents.

“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,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”

The move comes after the White House held discussions earlier this week with both GM and Ford about helping produce more ventilators. President Trump on Wednesday invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act, a civil defense and mobilization law passed during the Korean War aimed at boosting private industry production of supplies needed during times of crisis.

According to The Seattle Times, Ventec’s 18-pound VOCSN ventilator is the first and only multi-function ventilator, consisting of five different, integrated medical devices. It’s priced up to $50,000 for a version used in intensive-care units of hospitals.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine projects a need for 960,000 hospital-grade ventilators in the U.S., which it estimates has only around 200,000. There are currently confirmed 19,285 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and 272,362  globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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

Ford has also signaled a willingness to help increase ventilator production in the United States. Governments in Italy and the U.K. have also asked auto manufacturers including Ford for help making more ventilators, which are in short supply in many countries.