Designer of COVID-19 Saliva Test Dies at 51

Andrew Brooks, the creator of the COVID-19 spit test has passed away at the age of 51.

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Andrew Brooks, the creator of the COVID-19 spit test has passed away at the age of 51.

Heather Suraci, Editor-in-chief

With the one year anniversary of COVID-19 shutting down the world upon us, there has been a recent reflection of how far the US has come in terms of facing the brutal pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic, when testing resources such as swabs and reagents were scarce, Andrew Brooks’s saliva test offered a fast and reliable way to screen large numbers of people. The test, which he designed while serving as head of the Rutgers-affiliated biorepository RUCDR Infinite Biologics, protected essential workers from exposure to the virus as they collected samples by doing away with the need for technicians to be on-hand to gather the fluid; people simply spit into a cup and their saliva would be tested.

Unfortunately, the revolutionary molecular neuroscientist died in late January due to a heart attack. He was 51. Born in February 1969 in Bronxville, New York, Brooks grew up in neighboring New Jersey. He went on to attend Cornell University to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, however, his intentions changed at a summer internship at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center which convinced him to study human disease. In 2000, Brooks completed a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of Rochester, where he remained for the next four years as the director of the medical center’s core facilities.

In 2005, Brooks returned to New Jersey to serve as director of the Bionomics Research and Technology Center, a joint initiative between Rutgers University and several neighboring medical institutions. Along the way, he cultivated an interest in the business side of science, working with other researchers to commercialize their products.

n 2018, Brooks oversaw RUCDR’s privatization, a process that culminated in the summer of 2020 after Brooks was named chief executive officer. It was during his time with RUCDR Infinite Biologics that Brooks designed the saliva test, pulling on his background in molecular genetics to overcome the difficulties in working with saliva, such as its viscosity.

When asked what Brooks’ was like growing up, Janet Green (Brooks’ sister), said, “…growing up he practiced magic and loved to play golf.”

Despite the unfortunate passing of Brooks, his achievements live on as he has contributed his efforts to helping our country during one of its most arduous times.