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Farmers to benefit from rapid disease testing system for animals

Tchamie Kadja sits next to Wenbi Lai in a conference room with the portable Kalix PCR testing system.
Shay Frank
Tchamie Kadja and Wenbi Lai present a prototype of the Kalix system which received funding from the state for commercialization.

The agricultural community will soon have access to quick and easy onsite testing for diseases in animals.

The way existing testing works, farmers have to send samples to outside labs and the results can take days or even weeks. The delay can cost valuable time and money since diseases in animals and birds can quickly spread.

Kalix, a startup with ties to University of Dayton, has been recently winning grants and funding to bring its testing system to the community.

The PCR testing system, which is licensed under the University of Dayton, has been in development since 2020.

The Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded $200,000 to Kalix in order to propel the technology towards commercial use. In addition to state funding, Kalix received $25,000 from UD's Flyer Pitch Competition and $25,000 from the Entrepreneur's Center in Dayton.

The idea for Kalix came during the pandemic when he wanted to create a quicker, portable, and more affordable testing system, Tchamie Kadja, chief technology officer for the project and a postdoctoral researcher at UD.

PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, is a testing method which is used to make millions to billions of copies of a specific DNA sample to magnify a small sample of DNA for closer study.

"The beauty of PCR is, knowing the sequence, you can develop your tests for any type of bacteria or viruses or parasites, or you can name it," he said. "So we have a wide possibility in terms of testing kits. So depending on needs and times we can easily develop testing kits that is geared toward a specific disease or to serve the population."

Kadja worked with the project’s CEO and UD Adjunct Professor Wenbi Lai to kick off tests in agriculture. The system can currently test for Listeria and COVID-19.

"We are marketing it for farmers, so that they can test their animals and their cows and chickens and make sure that they stay safe and protect their investments," Lai said.

Lai said they will use this funding to expand the diseases Kalix can test for and fortify the durability of the technology.

”We don't just have one disease, we can have a couple of them that they can choose from or even test at the same time," she said. "The second is we want to do a redesign of our unit so that it is more user-friendly and that it is more rugged.”

Lai and Kadja said they hope to provide more affordable, accurate, and accessible testing for all down the road.

“This way we can also prove that our technology also works. It's accurate, it's rapid, it's sensitive enough," Kadja said. "Then eventually we can move on also to human health, where there is also still a need for affordable, accurate, rapid testing as well.”

Shay Frank was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. Before working at WYSO, Shay worked as the Arts Writer for the Blade Newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. In addition to working at the paper, she worked as a freelancer for WYSO for three years and served as the vice president of the Toledo News Guild. Now located back in the Dayton area, Shay is thrilled to be working with the team at WYSO and reporting for her hometown community.