FuzeHub offers manufacturing grants for masks, ventilators

FuzeHub, the statewide New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership center, has launched a competitive grant program that will award a total of $400,000 in COVID-19 manufacturing grants.

Everton Henriques
Everton Henriques

“In this program, we have a total of $400,000; $100,000 each for two companies that can come up with the ability to manufacture ventilators, and in the area of the N95 respirators or masks we have four $50,000 awards,” said Everton Henriques, NY MEP solutions director for FuzeHub.

The grants will be funded through FuzeHub’s Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund, which annually awards some $1 million to bolster New York’s manufacturing, technology and startup arenas. The application deadline is 4 p.m. April 17.

“We support economic development in New York State. In looking at the issues, we recognized that there is a shortage of these particular components, not only nationally, but in New York State,” Henriques explained.

The Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund typically funds two rounds of grants and a commercialization competition, he added.

“We decided that it would be in the interest of the state and communities to repurpose that funding to help offset these needs for materials that are in short supply,” Henriques said.

FuzeHub is particularly interested in the N95 masks for industrial uses. Those masks are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

“It’s important to realize that there are many, many masks out there, but not all are approved, and we’re focusing on masks that we know that once these manufacturers are done they will be able to stay in business, not go out of business immediately,” he said. “People who manufacture NIOSH-approved masks can later satisfy the FDA requirements if they follow the guidelines.”

The NY MEP is a state and federally funded program that is overseen by Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology & Innovation (NYSTAR).

The panel reviewing the grant applications will prioritize projects that are clearly defined and ready to be undertaken immediately. Projects will be expected to be completed as quickly as possible to help address emerging shortages of supplies.

“Fuzehub is constantly monitoring the situation and we’re trying to do everything we can to help New York State manufacturers, and in this particular case, the citizens of New York in general,” Henriques said. “The impact (of COVID-19) is — unless you are a required business — your production will be impacted because your workers will not be on the job. The smaller businesses will see an even tighter impact, except the essential businesses. But even then, they’re feeling a strain too.”

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Xerox to produce ventilators in Webster

Xerox Holdings Corp. has partnered with Vortran Medical Technology to produce thousands of ventilators from Xerox’s Webster campus, the two companies announced Tuesday.

The production will speed and scale production of Vortran’s GO2Vent ventilator and related Airway Pressure Monitor for hospitals and emergency response units fighting the battle against COVID-19.

Assuming a stable supply of essential parts, the companies will rapidly scale up production from roughly 40,000 ventilators in April to between 150,000 and 200,000 ventilators per month by June. Together, Xerox and Vortran could produce as many as 1 million ventilators in the coming months, the companies said.

While the GO2Vent is not a replacement for ventilators found in intensive care units, it is widely used in emergency situations, inter-hospital transport and MRIs. Given the shortage of ICU-grade ventilators, medical professionals are utilizing tools like this and other technology to support patients who do not yet or no longer need an ICU-level breathing device, which can be freed up for another patient.

John Visentin
John Visentin

“Our smartest minds met—virtually—with Vortran’s smartest minds and figured out how to mass-produce this critical technology,” said John Visentin, vice chairman CEO of Xerox. “We want to help make sure doctors, nurses and paramedics on the frontlines have the resources they need to help the rising number of patients with COVID-19.”

While Xerox plans to manufacture ventilators from its Webster facility, where the company was founded, Vortran will continue to manufacture ventilators at its current facility in Sacramento, Calif.

“The partnership with Xerox has one clear goal – to help save as many lives as possible. With Vortran’s proven technology and Xerox’s ability to hyper-scale manufacturing, we believe we can supply health care providers as many as 1 million ventilators in the coming months,” said Vortran Co-founder and CEO Gordon Wong M.D. “For all of us, this will be the most important thing we ever do.”

Vortran’s GO2Vent was designed for emergency use, natural disasters and disease outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. A gas-operated, disposable ventilator that can be set up within minutes and discarded after use by a single patient, it provides support via a secure airway and can be operated on a compressor, oxygen or air with a minimum of 10 liters per minute flow rates.

In addition to scaling up production of the GO2Vent and APM-Plus, Xerox and Vortran expect to compile and analyze data and feedback from health care professionals on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 in order to design and mass-produce external, in-line modifications that can be added to the GO2Vent to expand the potential applications of this life-saving equipment.

Xerox shares (NYSE: XRS) closed Monday at $18.71 but had climbed to $19.21 in pre-market trading Tuesday.

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Senators, congressman urge GM to produce ventilators in Rochester

Elected officials are urging General Motors Corp. to begin producing ventilators at the company’s Rochester facility.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Congressman Joseph Morelle on Tuesday sent word to GM Chairman and CEO Marry Barra to locate ventilator production at GM’s Rochester components plant to help mitigate the severe shortage of the life-saving device.

Schumer, Gillibrand and Morelle in a joint statement explained that the Rochester plant is particularly suitable to support the increased ventilator production because it already is equipped with a large Class 100,000 cleanroom to allow for manufacturing in a sterile environment, in addition to performing high volume assembly, including injection molding and precision laser welding.

The three representatives emphasized that in addition to being equipped to produce the medical equipment, the Rochester workforce also is eager and willing to contribute to the COVID-19 fight, as the leadership of the United Auto Workers Local 1097 informed the senators. UAW Local 1097 represents Rochester’s more than 800 hourly union workers.

“GM is gearing up to contribute to the COVID-19 fight, and our Rochester workforce is eager to help,” Schumer said in the statement. “That kind of enthusiasm for serving the country and New York, which has 5 percent of cases worldwide, should not be ignored. GM’s Rochester plant is ready to go as soon as they get the word. In a fight against a pandemic where decisive action and speed is of utmost importance, there is no time to be wasted. I urge GM to locate its ventilator production at its Rochester plant, providing New York and the rest of the country with life-saving medical equipment ASAP.”

The push comes following GM’s March 20 announcement that it would be joining with Ventec Life Systems in order to produce ventilators needed to treat COVID-19 infected patients with respiratory complications. The partnership allows Ventec access to GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise, vastly increasing Ventec’s capacity to produce ventilators and send them to the coronavirus pandemic’s frontlines, officials said.

“Our community has always come together during times of crisis to help those in need—and we are ready to step up and do our part to fight the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Morelle said. “GM’s Rochester plant is uniquely poised to produce much-needed ventilators and help save lives in our community and across the country. We need to utilize every resource available to address this public health emergency, which is why I urge GM to act swiftly and begin its ventilator production in Rochester immediately.”

GM has made more than $200 million in upgrades in recent years, making it the ideal spot to produce the ventilators, the senators noted.

“The women and men of UAW local 1097 are ready to help out in any way that we can to make life better during this pandemic. We will answer the call to produce medical equipment that is in short supply and so desperately needed at this time. Be assured we will do all in our power to help keep our community and our Nation safe during this global crisis,” said Dan Maloney, president of UAW Local 1097.

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