by Ashley Smart
Milwaukee-based health care startup Novir today is officially opening its new location within the Warehouse No. 1 building at 126 N. Jefferson St. in the city’s Historic Third Ward. The company moved from the Renaissance Building on Water Street, also in the Third Ward.
Novir, which provides quick testing and screening options, has seen rapid growth. That growth fueled the need to move into a larger office space. The company grew from 12 employees nine months ago to approximately 100 today. But the idea behind Novir began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“We were born out of the pandemic. We were sort of commiserating at the beginning of the pandemic and saying ‘Wow, what is going on? This is crazy,’” said Peter Klug, vice president of business and program development. “We were both in health care technology, so we were wondering what we could do.”
Klug and Alexander Kempe, president and CEO of Novir, first became connected through their past work at GE Healthcare and Direct Supply. The duo believed testing stood out at the biggest way to help address the pandemic due to the apparent lack of access. The Novir team also honed in on using testing as a mitigation factor early on in the pandemic.
Novir initially started by helping food manufacturers with testing during the summer of 2020. The company then moved to schools in the fall and when 2021 came around, it further expanded to provide DIY testing kits for local camps looking to reopen.
To fight the pandemic early on, Novir partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to serve schools across Wisconsin. Novir established school community sites for public school districts, including Milwaukee Public Schools, and hundreds of public charter schools and private schools.
“We are learning how to live with the pandemic, which will become an endemic,” said Kempe. “We are committed to being a partner with the city and county of Milwaukee to continue and expand access to vital health care services pre and post-pandemic to ensure businesses remain open. In addition, students are offered in-person learning at our schools, and we have a chance to see a safer and healthier city thrive as we move forward.”
Novir operates between its Milwaukee headquarters and a location in Colorado. The company not only offers COVID-19 testing, but also drug testing, screening for diabetes and tests for cholesterol level. Novir delivers testing through three different services offerings: A face-to-face test, a DIY test or a test that involves a virtual proctor who can monitor a person while they note results. Klug said the company wants to further expand their testing options.
Novir COVID-19 antibody testing kit.
Right now, Novir receives their tests through outside manufacturers. The company is in the final stages of getting FDA approval for their own brand of COVID-19 tests manufactured here in Milwaukee.
“It’s arduous to get through the FDA process but we’re getting close,” Klug said.
The company provides testing for Milwaukee residents, but also people in the Madison, Green Bay, Racine, Kenosha and Appleton areas.
Following the grand opening of the relocated Milwaukee office, Klug said Novir will continue to expand with a new southern California office in the works.