Tej Patel, president, diagnostics firm Fluxergy, talks about a revolutionary analyzer, as well as the advantages of preventive care for the health and well-being of equines.
Horse racing fans were shocked to learn that Medina Spirit, winner of the Kentucky Derby, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, prompting bettors, animal rights groups, and doctors to re-examine the treatment of horses in professional races. Fluxergy, California-based diagnostic systems company, has developed an agile, portable analyzer for horses, capable of multimodal testing. The versatile device can run a host of comprehensive diagnostics on the field, from EHV-1 and other communicable diseases, to routine metabolic tests. A talk with Tej Patel, Fluxergy President:
Can you throw light on your innovative diagnosis system?
Fluxergy gives equine veterinarians a better in-house laboratory tool. We are bringing the first PCR and protein testing system that equine veterinarians can use at their practice or facility to diagnose patients for infectious diseases and other parameters. Current lab costs are prohibitive for preventative screening and the timeline for getting results back has created challenges. Our goal from the start has been to increase accessibility to health testing, whether for healthcare in low- and middle-income countries, or from a one-health perspective, including animals and the environment. When we decided to apply our technology that we initially developed for the equine industry, the veterinarians that we spoke to were excited about it and understood its potential impact.
How accurate is the system?
Regarding real-time PCR, what our system is doing, is looking for the DNA or RNA of an organism (EHV-1). Specifically in the case of one of our first few tests. which is a salmonella test for diarrhea and biosecurity, our system is taking what they are doing in the lab and bringing it to a smaller and easier-to-use form. We are automating what can be a 3+ hour process in a lab, to less than an hour. With our system, we are able to get the appropriate accuracy and sensitivity, as shown by our CE-IVD COVID-19 assay which is being launched globally.
Your systems also detect other diseases and infections in horses. Tell us about that.
Horse owners have a great relationship with their veterinarians and our system helps give better clarity to the vet. You are able to quarantine a horse earlier so that it may reduce the impact on the rest of the stable. Having faster answers when it comes to testing enables horse owners to have the time to act more strategically.
This is game-changing innovation. How will this be adapted on a large scale?
There was a horse show last year in Valencia, and there was an equine herpesvirus I outbreak where they ended up cancelling the event, and a majority of the season. The horses went back to different parts of Europe and took the virus with them, resulting in smaller outbreaks throughout the continent. Moving from a reactive outlook to a preventive one, like testing upon admit at a low price point is the next step to avoiding such costly situations.
How do you plan to make this system available to more horse owners?
We are excited about the rollout. Starting at the end of summer, we are going to be launching our system in some of the largest veterinary hospitals around the world, the US, Canada, Europe, The Middle East and Australia. We are starting off with a respiratory panel detecting S equi, EIV, EHV-1 and EHV-4 to detect multiple acute phase proteins. The goal is to build many more tests for syndromic and situational testing. We are working with the best veterinarians in the industry so that we can be sure we have the most comprehensive tests.
We have seen in the past how viruses like Influenza have destroyed horse life in Australia. There are reports suggesting that a number of viruses and infections can affect horses this year. Do you believe that your system can help prevent it?
Being able to screen horses in a cost-effective way, before an event, during travel, and upon admit into a new barn, allows a vet to catch shedding of an organism before the suspect can reach larger populations.
What are the industry challenges?
There were a lot of challenges. Nearly 85% of the equine industry includes mobile veterinarians, and so stability is important. Further, every sample type has its challenges and we are cutting on the time side. We use leading university labs to validate our tests.
Does it happen often that horse owners use drugs before a performance?
The strong majority of people in the equine industry that we know understand the importance of keeping a horse healthy for the long term and love their animals. Our goal is to help veterinarians and owners with monitoring horse health.
Your system is capable of giving real-time results. Can you elaborate on that?
We are able to monitor how the inflammation is responding to the treatment given to the horse as well as quarantine a horse earlier so that it may reduce the impact on the rest of the stable. Having faster answers when it comes to testing enables horse owners to have the time needed to act strategically.
How do you think the horse industry can improve?
From Fluxergy’s perspective, we believe in increased access to information and testing at a more affordable price point, to be able to make better decisions about the health of the animal.