Dr. Zahra Mehdizadeh Kashi started Kashi Clinical Laboratories in Beaverton, Oregon.
Tell me about the beginning when you started the lab. Why did you start with transplant-related genetic testing? I am sure it had something to do with familiarity, but was there more?
Dr. Kashi: Familiarity with transplant-related genetic testing was definitely one factor in my initial focus. But it was not the only factor. I always like to be different and my courage rises with anything that intimidates me. Challenge makes me want to go for it! (giggling). The genetic world, despite its advancements in the last decade, is still a somewhat ambiguous field to many, and I love that! I love to be able to be a piece of the puzzle solver for clinicians.
Kashi Labs “hired” its very first employee, Jason Alcorn.
What sort of obstacles did you have to overcome when you started the lab?
Dr. Kashi: Oh, man, it was tough! Dark. Very scary. Very lonely for a long time. Very, very lonely. I was a brand new business. I had to teach myself to be a lawyer, business guru, technologist, lab director. During the day, I was running to outfit the lab, and at night I was developing web content. I was blessed with very good friends. Beth Zentzis designed the website and took photographs for free. Then, of course, we wanted to buy equipment or reagent and everybody would request cash. We were a brand new business with little support, so it was a Catch-22 for a long time. A month-and-a-half after Kashi opened, Jason joined me. He came to me and said, “I got a couple of hands you know.” That was his opening and he just walked in. He worked free of salary for many months, trying to convince manufacturers to let us buy reagents on credit.The darkest part of that year came when my mother died. My mom was a symbol of everything to me. In fact, she is still on the board of directors and she has been dead for 10 years now. My mother was a symbol of everything to me. To make matters worse, I came back from my mother’s funeral only to find my husband in brain surgery at the hospital. I walked back into the lab, with a dead mom, very depressed, husband who is in the hospital, completely broke, a lab half put together, zero paid staff members. It was bad.Probably the worst and best year of my life was 2006. It was the beginning of a profession that has turned into the pride of my lifetime (besides the birth of my daughter), and really one of the worst years because I was very broke, and very broken-hearted. Isn’t that ironic?
Kashi validated Sequence Base Typing for HLA typing.
Kashi became a CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) accredited laboratory. CLIA regulates all United States laboratories that test human specimens for health assessment, or to diagnose, prevent, or treat disease.
Kashi performed testing for their first client.
Kashi became an ASHI (American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics) accredited laboratory. ASHI is the foremost authority and leading educational resource in immunogenetics and histocompatibility.
Kashi provided testing for its 1,000th sample.
What about the testing drives you, and gives you joy? And honestly keeps you staying here for 70+ hours a week?
Dr. Kashi: Inherently, I have found about me, good or bad, that I want to solve problems.The tests that we do can solve giant emotional problems for a mom, spouse, sibling, boyfriend … you name it. And I am not God so I would be lying if I said we are saving lives with our testing. But the moment we find an HLA match, the moment we find a mutation for cancer, the moment we find a health solution for the person who calls and says, “I have done everything there is to be done could you please help?”, the moment we hear from the mother of a child who has hit bottom in the drug world – we know we are making a difference. Do you know what these stories do to a person whose natural propensity is to want to solve? All the sudden it puts me on that tearful moment of wanting to help in solving their problems. That is the part of the testing that drives me.
Kashi was serving multiple national and international Transplant Centers.
Kashi moved into a 7,000 square foot laboratory space in Portland, Oregon. This space was nearly four times bigger than the previous laboratory.
Dr. Kashi incorporated a new laboratory, Novus Center for Molecular Diagnostics (NCMD). The main focus of NCMD was to develop and validate cutting-edge clinical tests and to participate in collaborative clinical research.
Kashi welcomed its 10th paid team member.
What are you most amazed by today?
Dr. Kashi: Every single one of the people in this lab amazes me! I am amazed at the strengths that every one of our team brings to the table and how vastly those strengths of each one masks the weakness of the other. Collectively, it makes our team to be what the pride of this laboratory as long as we are who we are. That is amazing!
Kashi starts Next Generation Sequencing for Exome and Targeted Sequencing.
Kashi Toxicology test offerings include medication monitoring and drug detection services as well as pharmacogenetic testing for personalized treatment. In addition, Kashi Health was created to promote each individual’s well-being by offering innovative and reliable genetic testing services for behavioral, bone, cardiac, and nutritional health, and weight management.
Kashi integrates Next Generation Sequencing for HLA Typing.
Kashi is certified as a CAP (College of American Pathologists) accredited laboratory, one of the highest accreditations for a clinical laboratory.
Kashi provides testing for its 100,000th sample!
Kashi celebrates 10 years in business!
What do you want your clients to know about you and Kashi’s commitment to healthcare?
Dr. Kashi: I will never, ever, let them down. Never.