Leaders in Cannabis Testing – Part 1: A Q&A with Milan Patel, CEO and Co-Founder of PathogenDx

In this “Leaders in Hashish Testing” series of articles, Inexperienced interviews hashish tests laboratories and technological innovation suppliers that are bringing unique perspectives to the market. Specific interest is targeted on how these companies integrate innovative methods and systems to navigate a fast altering landscape of regulatory constraints and B2B need.

PathogenDx is an Arizona-based mostly service provider of microbial testing technologies. Because their inception in 2014, they have broadened their arrive at to 26 states in the US. In addition to cannabis merchandise testing, PathogenDx also provides systems for food items safety testing, environmental testing and a short while ago started out giving human diagnostics screening to support COVID-19 response initiatives.

We interviewed Milan Patel, CEO and co-founder of PathogenDx. Milan started PathogenDx as a spin-off from just one of his investments in a medical diagnostics business tests for genetic markers in transplant organs. Prior to PathogenDx, Milan labored in finance and marketing and advertising at Intel and later served as CFO at Acentia (now Maximus Federal).

Aaron Green: What is the record of PathogenDx?

Milan Patel: PathogenDx was properly a spin-off of a medical diagnostics enterprise that my companion Dr. Mike Hogan, the inventor of the technologies, experienced founded when he was a professor at the University of Arizona, but formerly at Baylor Medical School back again in 2002. I experienced invested in the organization back then and I experienced realized that his technology experienced a broad and broad sweeping effects for screening – not just for pathogens in hashish precisely, but also for pathogens in food stuff, agriculture, water and even human diagnostics. In the final 14 months, this became very particular for each and every solitary human being on the planet owning been impacted by SARS-CoV-2, the viral pathogen producing Covid-19. The genesis of the corporation was just this, that human wellbeing, food stuff and agricultural supply, and the surroundings has and will carry on to be specific by bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens impacting the safety and wellness of every human on the world.

We launched PathogenDx and we pivoted the corporation from its original human organ transplant genetics marketplace scope into the larger marketplaces we felt the authentic aim was also niche for a technology with this a great deal probable. We accredited the engineering, and we repurposed it into generally cannabis. We felt that attaining professional success and use in the hands of cannabis screening labs at the point out level in which hashish was very first regulated was the most reasonable subsequent stage. Ultimately, our target was and is to transfer into marketplaces that are authorised at the federal regulatory side of the spectrum, and that is in which we are now.

Green: What year was that?

Milan Patel, CEO and Co-Founder of PathogenDx
Image credit: Michael Chansley

Patel: 2014.

Inexperienced: So, PathogenDx commenced in hashish testing?

Patel: Sure, we began in cannabis testing. We now have in excess of 100 labs that are applying the technological innovation. There is a precise require in hashish when you are seeking at contamination or an infection.

In the circumstance of contamination on hashish, you ought to seem for bacterial and fungal organisms that make it unsafe, this sort of as E. coli, or Salmonella or Aspergillus pathogens. We’re common with modern difficulties like the romaine lettuce foodborne disease outbreaks at Chipotle. In the case of fungal organisms these as Aspergillus, if you smoke or eat contaminated hashish, it could have a huge effect on your wellness. Cannabis regulators understood that to ensure public wellbeing and safety there was a lot more than just a single pathogen – there ended up half a dozen of these bugs, at a bare minimum, that could be damaging to you.

The splendor of our know-how, using a Microarray is that we can do what is known as a multiplex test, which suggests you are equipped to test for all bacterial and fungal pathogens in a solitary take a look at, as opposed to the outdated “Adam Smith” design, which exams each and every pathogen on a one particular-by-one particular basis. The conventional approach is costly, time consuming and cumbersome. Cannabis is these types of a substantial value crop and producers have to have to get the answer rapidly. Our exams can give a result in 6 hrs on the exact same working day, as opposed to the two or a few days that it normally takes for these other accepted approaches on the sector.

Inexperienced: What is your company product? Is there products in addition to consumables?

Patel: Our company model is the traditional razor blade product. What that signifies is we provide equipment as very well as the consumables – the testing kits on their own.

The PathogenDx technological innovation takes advantage of normal, off-the-shelf lab equipment that you can locate anywhere. We did not want to make the devices proprietary so that a lab has to acquire a precise OEM branded item. They can use pretty much any machines that’s accessible commercially. We wanted to make absolutely sure that labs are only having to pay a fraction of the price to get our devices, as opposed to using other distributors. Next, the platform is open-ended, that means it is extremely flexible to do the job with the volumes that diverse hashish labs see day-to-day, from substantial to small.

One particular gear established can system quite a few distinct varieties of screening kits. There are kits for regulated tests needed by states, as nicely as necessary environmental contamination.

Inexperienced: Do you provide any in-house or reference lab tests?

Patel: We do. We have a CLIA lab for scientific testing. We did this about a 12 months back when we started out undertaking COVID screening.

We really don’t do any kind of in-house reference screening for cannabis, although we do use certain reference supplies or benchmarks from Emerald Scientific, for illustration, or from NCI. Our platform is all externally third-bash reference lab tested whether or not it’s validated by our exterior hashish lab buyers or an independent lab. We want our prospects to make guaranteed that the true examination will work in their individual hands, in their own facility by their possess people, as opposed to just shrugging our shoulders and indicating, “hey, we’ve accomplished it ourselves, think us.” That is the distinction.

Green: Can you describe the distinction involving qPCR and endpoint PCR?

Patel: The distinction among PathogenDx’s Microarray is it employs endpoint PCR compared to qPCR (quantitative actual time PCR). Efficiently, our examination does not need to be enriched. Endpoint PCR provides a bigger level of precision, since when it goes to amplify that focus on DNA, no matter whether it is E. coli, Salmonella or Aspergillus items, it takes advantage of all the primer reagent to its endpoint. So, it amplifies each single piece of an E. Coli (for illustration) in that sample until eventually the primer is completely eaten. In the situation of qPCR, it fundamentally reaches a threshold and then the response stops. That’s the distinction which success in a substantially better degree of precision. This gives nearly 10 periods better sensitivity to recognize the pathogen in that sample.

The second detail is that we have separated out how the amplified sample hybridizes to the probe. In the scenario of our assay, we have a microarray with a well in it and we printed the genuine probe that has the sequence of E. coli in there, now driving 100% specificity. While in the qPCR, the reaction is not only amplifying, but it’s also essentially working with the probe. So, in that way, we have a higher degree of efficiency in phrases of specificity. You get a definite reply particularly in conditions of the organism you are hunting for.

In phrases of an analogy, let us just take a zip code for example which has the added 4 digits at the conclude of it.  In the circumstance of endpoint PCR, we have 9 digits. We have our primer probes which symbolize the regular five digits of a zip code, and the actual physical place of the probe alone in the effectively which serves as the additional four digits of that zip code. The analyte must match both principal and secondary areas of the 9-digit zip code for it to lock in, like a key and a lock. And that is the way our technologies works in a nutshell.

Endpoint PCR is completely different. It drives increased levels of accuracy and specificity even though lessening the turnaround time as opposed to qPCR – down to 6 hrs from sample to result. In qPCR, you ought to enrich the sample for 24 to 48 hours, relying on germs or fungus, and then amplification and PCR analysis can be performed in a single to three hours. The accuracies and the turnaround instances are the main variations among the endpoint PCR and qPCR.

Green: If I comprehend appropriately, it’s a printed microarray in the nicely plate?

Patel: Which is appropriate. It’s a 96-effectively plate, and in each individual well, you have now printed all the probes for all targets in a solitary very well. So, you are not operating additional than a person well per target, or per organism like you are for qPCR. You are functioning just just one nicely for all organisms. With our perfectly plates, you are consuming much less wells and our patented foil-deal with, you only use the wells you need to have. The unused wells in the perfectly plate can be utilised in upcoming exams, conserving on fees and labor.

Inexperienced: Do you have any other differentiating IP?

The PathogenDx Microarray

Patel: The multiplex is the core IP. The way we course of action the uncooked sample, whether it is flower or non-flower, without the have to have for enrichment is one more part of the core IP. We do triplicate probes in each nicely for E. Coli, triplicate probes for Salmonella, etcetera., so there are three probes per qualified organism in each and every of the wells. We’re triple examining that you’re definitively identifying that bug at the stop of the day. This is the cornerstone of our technologies.

We were just approved by the Condition of New York, and the New York Department of Health and fitness has 13 various organisms for screening on hashish. Feel about it: just one of the most demanding screening prerequisites at a condition level – maybe even at a federal amount – and we just got approved for that. If you experienced to do 13 organisms separately, whether it’s plate culture or qPCR, it would become super pricey and extremely hard. It would split the very backs of just about every testing lab to do that. That’s in which the multiplexing becomes tremendously important since what you are carrying out is leveraging the capability to do every thing as a one examination and single response.

Eco-friendly: You outlined New York. What other geographies are you energetic in?

Patel: We’re active in 26 distinctive states like the significant hashish players: Florida, Nevada, California, Arizona, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Colorado and Washington – and we’re also in Canada. We’re now doing work to enter other marketplaces, but it all will come down to navigating the regulatory approach and obtaining acceptance.

We’re not active at the moment in other global markets still. We’re now heading by means of the AOAC acceptance process for our technologies and I’m content to say that we’re close to finding that in the up coming few of months. Further than that, I consider we’ll scale much more internationally.

I am delighted to say that we also bought Fda EUA federal stage authorization of our technologies which drives sizeable believability and self-assurance for the use of the know-how. About a yr ago, we produced a conscious alternative to make this engineering federally appropriate by heading into the COVID testing market. We got the Fda EUA back again on April 20, ironically. That vote of self confidence by the Fda usually means that our technologies is capable of human screening. That has assisted to create some runway in conditions of receiving federalized with both of those the Fda and the USDA, and certification by AOAC for our diverse checks.

Eco-friendly: Was that COVID-19 EUA for clinical diagnostics or surveillance?

Patel: It was for clinical diagnostics, so it is an true human diagnostic check.

Green: Previous few of queries below. When you obtain anything as a cannabis operator, no matter whether its microbes or fungus, what can you do?

Patel: There are lots of expert services that are tied into our ecosystem. For example, we get the job done with Willow Industries, who does remediation.

There is been a ton of criticism close to DNA centered know-how. It does not make any difference if it’s qPCR or endpoint PCR. They say, “well, you are also which include lifeless organisms, dead DNA.” We do have a element of separating reside versus lifeless DNA with a biomechanical method, utilizing an enzyme that we’ve produced, and it is available commercially. Labs can take a look at for no matter if a pathogen is residing or useless and, in quite a few cases, when they locate it, they can lover with remediation corporations to assistance handle the situation at the grower level.

A different product we present is an EnviroX exam, which is an environmental check of air and surfaces. These have 50 pathogens in a one effectively. Assume about this: these are all the negative actors that commonly increase where by soil is – the human pathogens, plant pathogens, powdery mildew, Botrytis, Fusarium – these are extremely problematic for the countless numbers of growers out there. The notion is to assist them with screening know-how in advance of samples are pulled off the cover and go to a controlled lab. We can enable the growers isolate in which that contamination is in that facility, then the remediation organizations can come in, and help them preserve their crop and prevent economic losses.

Environmentally friendly: What are you most fascinated in finding out about?

Patel: I would favor that the hashish sector not go by way of the exact same mistakes other industries have absent by way of. Cannabis started off as a cottage industry. It is naturally doubled each 12 months, and as it receives scaled, the major corporations occur in. Sophistication, specifications, maturity all support in legitimacy of a company and image of an industry. At the end of the day, we have an chance to learn from other industries to actually leapfrog and not have to go via the very same faults. That is just one of the points that is critical to me. I’m very passionate about it.

One matter that I’ll depart you with is this: we’re dealing with much more bugs in hashish than the food items sector. The food sector is only working with two to four bugs and look at the number of remembers they are navigating – and this is a multi-billion-dollar business. Hashish is however a portion of that and we’re dealing with far more bugs. We want to look forward and prevent these remembers. How do you prevent some of the worries all around antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic resistance? We never want to be heading down that road if we can prevent it and that’s sort of a own mission for myself and the corporation.

Cannabis itself is so impressive, each medicinally as properly as recreationally, and it can be helpful for both people and business impression if we do the correct items, and keep away from long term disasters, like the vaping crisis we went by means of 18 months back simply because of negative GMPs. We need to learn from those people industries. We’re hoping to make it superior for the correct reasons and which is what’s vital to me.

Green: All right, wonderful. That concludes the job interview. Thank you, Milan.

Patel: Thank you for allowing me to share my feelings and your time, Aaron.