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This week, Milan Patel, co-founder and CEO of PathogenDx, joins the Cannabis Equipment News podcast to discuss high-speed cannabis testing: how it works, who uses it, and what (if anything) it misses.
Around 2010, Milan Patel invested in a small diagnostics company that focused on human and clinical diagnostics. The company was grant-funded and developed new technologies for genetics testing for organ transplants. It was a billion-dollar market, but it left a lot of money on the table, especially considering that the diagnostic and medical lab industry will be worth an estimated $68.3 billion in 2022, according to IBISWorld.
Patel says now that he wasn’t thinking big enough. He took a step back and realized that humans are at war with pathogens, from foodborne outbreaks and water contamination to viral pathogens. His technology could make testing simpler, more accurate and more cost-effective. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the resources to take the technology to the FDA.
He was looking for a market that offered real commercial traction when he thought about cannabis. In 2020, cannabis testing was worth about $962 million, according to Markets and Markets, and it could grow to $1.8 billion by 2025.
Patel partnered with cannabis testing labs and sent them samples of his microarray technology. Cannabis cultivators deal with many bacterial, fungal and even viral pathogens, and his partners quickly realized that the technology was a perfect fit for addressing contamination at cultivation facilities. In addition, the cannabis industry provided Patel with the opportunity to prove out his microarray solution at the state level, knowing that federal level oversight is on the horizon.
PathogenDx’s multiplexing microarray technology uses a patented inkjet process to print genetic pathogen sequences on a glass surface. Think of it as a chip printed on glass to test for more than 50 pathogens using a one-gram sample. The user receives a result in six hours.
Until now, cannabis operators waited from two to seven days for tests that required samples to grow in petri dishes. By cutting down the testing time, the ROI on the system is quick, especially considering how long some cultivators hold products for testing. According to Patel, microarray tech is also more accurate because each array has at least three tests per sample, per pathogen.
PathogenDx’s system is currently used by all certified independent testing labs in the U.S., but operators could soon use it in-house. As the industry heads toward a federally regulated market, growers will have to comply with current good manufacturing practices (cGMP), likely under the Food and Drug Administration. To remain compliant with the FDA, food processors must swab any food contact surfaces daily, and the cannabis industry should prepare for similar demands.
Using PathogenDx, operators can quickly identify pathogen hot zones and remediate them before spreading. It could be a key tool for quality control before samples are sent to government agencies for compliance testing.
It could also be used for risk mitigation, preventing recalls while protecting the brand and the consumer.
PathogenDx is easy to use but accurate, and should significantly impact cannabis operators as they continue to fight the war against pathogens.
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