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Andrew Brooks (1969–2021), scientist who developed first COVID-19 spit test

by Linnea Crowther

Andrew Brooks was a research professor at Rutgers University and CEO of Infinity Biologix, who developed the first FDA-approved rapid saliva test for COVID-19.

Helping save lives during the pandemic

Brooks joined the faculty at Rutgers in 2004, and in 2009, he began working at the university’s Cell and DNA Repository. The company later went private, renamed Infinity Biologix, with Brooks at its helm. As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the U.S. in 2020, Brooks began leading the company’s effort to develop a saliva test. This test is able to produce faster results than a nasal or throat swab, without requiring a health worker to closely approach a potentially infected person to take a sample. The person being tested simply spits into a tube, and the saliva can be quickly analyzed. Since the FDA approved the test in April, it has been administered more than four million times, and it is one of the most reliable COVID-19 tests available. Brooks’ test is credited with saving many lives by enabling fast detection of COVID-19.

Notable quote

“You simply have to spit into a tube. With some spit in a tube you cap that tube and a preservation agent preserves the nucleic acid from the virus, allowing us to safely transport it to the lab. And off you go to testing. It doesn’t require a health care professional to collect … and [it] also preserves all that personal protective equipment that we need to take care of patients in the hospital.” —from an April interview on Fox News

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Tributes to Andrew Brooks

Full obituary: The New York Times

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