Andrew Brooks, who developed a coronavirus spit test, dies aged 51
After four years at the university medical center, he returned to New Jersey to accept a position at Rutgers, and in 2009 he joined the Cell and DNA Repository, a university-owned company providing data management and analysis for biological research .
Dr. Brooks became the company’s chief operating officer and discovered he had a flair for the business side of science. He grew the company from a few dozen employees to almost 250 and worked with almost all of the major pharmaceutical companies.
“Most of the scientists I meet are not interested, or only by chance, in the commercialization of their work,” said Dr. Jay Tischfield, a Rutgers professor and managing director of the repository. “Andy understood that you have to be a gamer if you want something to come out and be used. You can’t rely on others. “
In 2018, the company, which was then called Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository Infinite Biologics, decided to go private; Dr. Brooks has been named managing director. The university agreed to move but retained a significant stake in the new company, now called Infinity Biologix.
The resources and experience gathered in the repository made it Dr. Brooks was relatively easy to develop the coronavirus spit test, which he conducted in collaboration with two other companies, Spectrum Solutions and Accurate Diagnostics Labs.
He was used to doing genetic testing through saliva, and “it wasn’t rocket science,” said Dr. Tischfield to adapt these techniques to extract RNA from the coronavirus. The company even had thousands of tubes on hand to collect samples with.
After the FDA granted approval, Dr. Brooks faced another challenge: size. He immediately needed significantly more equipment and staff to create the tests and process the results. But a cheap call from the White House offering help and one from Dr. Tischfield arranged a multi-million dollar loan that allowed the company to quickly add additional analytical equipment and double its workforce almost overnight.