Harbor Launch Highlight: Dr. Djik Maouyo, PyroDex

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Harbor Launch Highlight: Dr. Djik Maouyo, PyroDex

Mar 27, 2023

People with truly incredible minds walk the halls of IMET, one of those being our friend and colleague, Dr. DjikoIngar “Djik” Maouyo. Dr. Maouyo is a molecular biologist whose company, PyroDex, is a part of IMET’s Harbor Launch Incubator. While we are excited to tell you about Djik’s science, we want to start by describing a small piece of his journey into the field of biology.

“Chad is one of the 24 poorest countries in the world; I am, by miracle, who I am today.”

Djik was born in Chad, a country in north-central Africa. According to the Borgen Project, “Chad has consistently remained one of the poorest countries in Africa”. When Djik was 22 years old and had just begun his first year at the University of Chad, his country descended into civil war. Djik’s education was put on hold while his country waged war.

Two years into the civil war, the European Community, later replaced by the European Union, granted scholarships to 250 random students from the University of Chad. The scholarship would enable them to complete their education at the University of Benin in Togo, West Africa. Djik was selected as one of the 250.

With no operational airport in Chad, Djik and his fellow students traveled to Cameroon, where they would board a plane to the university in Togo. Arriving at the airport, the students were informed that the university could no longer accept all 250 Chadian students – only 89 students could now be admitted. In the interest of fairness, the 89 students who would continue on to Togo were randomly selected from the list of 250. Djik was selected as one of the 89.

Before boarding the plane, each student was assigned an area of study to major in at the university in Togo. Djik’s goal was to study engineering; however, he was placed in a group of students that would be pursuing degrees in biology. He watched as students around him complained about their academic placement and were summarily removed from the list of those continuing to Togo. Not wanting to return to his war-torn home, Djik accepted his placement and boarded the plane to Togo.

While Djik’s journey into the field of biology did not start with love, it did start with hope. Because of this hope, he did not quit. He finished his first year at the university in Togo at the top of his class—and his success did not stop there. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he went on to receive a master’s degree in life sciences at the university in Togo. Three years later, he moved to Canada where he earned a second master’s degree as well as a PhD in Integrative Physiology. During this time, he slowly grew to love biology.

“Because of my experience, I know areas of unmet needs. I can complain about it…but I thought, just jump in and [fix] it.”

Over the following years, Djik’s research experience and depth of knowledge grew. He spent time studying the pancreas, virulence factors, cell physiology, bioimaging, and the molecular physiology of the kidney and large intestine. The convergence of these areas of study has allowed Djik to see things in a unique way. This unique vision has led to the creation of his company, PyroDex. PyroDex offers an alternative method for testing medical devices for microbial contamination. 

Currently, only 7% of medical drugs that make it to phase 1 of clinical trials actually reach the market. Many of these failures may be due to contaminants that cannot be detected using current methods. When 93% of potential drugs produce no return, pharmaceutical companies need to recover their losses by increasing the price of drugs associated with the treatments that succeed.

“PyroDex was formed out of deep knowledge of the field, unmet needs, and an ability to respond to these unmet needs.”

With better methods to detect microbial contamination we could increase the percent of medical drugs that make it to the market, therefore decreasing the price of treatment. This is where PyroDex comes in.


Issues with Current Methods of Detection

How PyroDex Addresses these Issues

Bacterial endotoxin testing (using horseshoe crab blood cells) detects only bacterial endotoxins; however, it cannot detect other contaminants, including molds, yeasts, viruses, and chemical impurities. 
PyroDex has created an automated application of the monocyte activation test (MAT), which detects all fever causing substances, including viruses, molds, and yeasts, as well as endotoxins from bacteria.
The animals used for animal testing can be highly tolerant to substances that cause fever, sepsis, and organ failure in humans. Contaminated treatments can pass these tests if the animals’ high tolerance levels prevent them from showing symptoms.
Instead of using animals, PyroDex’s detection test uses human-sourced monocytes to mimic the fever response. This provides results that are very similar to human reactions, because it does not rely on animals whose tolerance levels differ greatly from our own.


“The knowledge that I have is for the world, not for me.”

This new technology can improve the safety, affordability, and environmental sustainability of the pharmaceutical industry. The tests can detect more types of microbial and chemical contamination and could thus reduce the number of fatalities occurring in clinical trials. Detecting contaminants before clinical trials occur could also increase the percent of medical drugs that reach the market. With a higher percentage of treatments succeeding, the overall cost of healthcare would become more affordable. The goal is that eventually “each drug could pay for itself, not for the [other] drugs that fail the clinical trials.” This test could also decrease the need for animal testing as well as replace the need to harvest blood from horseshoe crabs.

It is not hard to see that Dr. Djik Maouyo is a true inspiration. As a member of the Harbor Launch Incubator at IMET, Djik works with Dr. Nina Lamba, Betsy Collie, and Steven Davey, our Harbor Launch team. As PyroDex enters its sixth year, Djik continues to have the support of our Harbor Launch team and its resources as well as the support of IMET and all of his colleagues. Thank you for all that you do, Djik; it is an honor to share our hallways with you.

Learn more about PyroDex.