Andrew Brooks, Who Developed a Covid Spit Check, Dies at 51

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After working at the University of Rochester Medical Center for four years, he returned to New Jersey to accept a position at Rutgers and in 2009 joined the Cell and DNA Repository, a university-owned company that does data management and analysis for biological research.

Updated

Jan. 31, 2021, 9:01 p.m. ET

Dr. Brooks was named the company’s chief operating officer, finding he had a flair for the business side of science. He expanded the company from just a few dozen employees to almost 250 and worked with almost all large pharmaceutical companies, among others.

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Confused by Coronavirus Testing Conditions? Let us help:

    • antibody: A protein produced by the immune system that can recognize and attach to certain types of viruses, bacteria or other invaders.
    • Antibody test / serology test: A test that detects antibodies specific to the coronavirus. About a week after the coronavirus infects the body, antibodies begin to appear in the blood. Because antibodies take so long to develop, an antibody test cannot reliably diagnose an ongoing infection. However, it can identify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus in the past.
    • Antigen test: This test detects parts of coronavirus proteins called antigens. Antigen tests are quick and only take five minutes. However, they are less accurate than tests that detect genetic material from the virus.
    • Coronavirus: Any virus that belongs to the Orthocoronavirinae virus family. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2.
    • Covid19: The disease caused by the new coronavirus. The name stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019.
    • Isolation and quarantine: Isolation is separating people who know they have a contagious disease from those who are not sick. Quarantine refers to restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a virus.
    • Nasopharyngeal smear: A long, flexible rod with a soft swab that is inserted deep into the nose to collect samples from the space where the nasal cavity meets the throat. Samples for coronavirus tests can also be taken with swabs that don’t go as deep into the nose – sometimes called nasal swabs – or with swabs from the mouth or throat.
    • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): Scientists use PCR to make millions of copies of genetic material in a sample. With the help of PCR tests, researchers can detect the coronavirus even when it is scarce.
    • Viral load: The amount of virus in a person’s body. In people infected with the coronavirus, viral loads can peak before symptoms, if any.

“Most of the scientists I meet are not or otherwise interested in commercializing their activities,” said Dr. Jay Tischfield, 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 other people. “

In 2018, the company, previously known as the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository Infinite Biologics, agreed with Dr. Brooks to go private as the new managing director. The university agreed but held a significant stake in the new company, now called Infinity Biologix.

The resources and experience he gained in the repository made it Dr. Brooks was relatively easy to develop the Covid spit test, which he conducted in collaboration with two other companies, Spectrum Solutions and Accurate Diagnostics Labs.

Dr. Brooks was used to doing genetic testing through saliva, and Dr. Tischfield said “it wasn’t rocket science” to adapt these techniques to extract RNA from the coronavirus. The company even had thousands of tubes that could be used to collect samples.

After the FDA granted approval, Dr. Brooks faces another challenge: scaling. He immediately needed significantly more equipment and personnel to create the tests and process the results. A cheap call from the White House for help and a call from Dr. Multi-million dollar loan arranged by Tischfield allowed the company to quickly add additional analytical equipment and nearly double its workforce almost overnight.

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