Andrew Brooks, a research professor at Rutgers University who made the first FDA-approved saliva test for the coronavirus, died on Jan. 23 in Manhattan. His sister, Janet Green, confirmed to CNN on Sunday that the cause of death was a heart attack. She called him “an intellect, an amazing scientist, an amazing father … an amazing family man.”
Brooks, 51, was the chief operating officer and director of technology development at RUCDR Infinite Biologics, the lab that developed the saliva test. The test, which was approved in April 2020, was authorized for at-home use a month later.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy referred to Brooks as “one of our state’s unsung heroes” in a January 25 news conference, saying his work “undoubtedly saved lives.” “We cannot thank Andy enough for all he did across his career,” Murphy said. “He will be sorely missed by many.”
Last year, Brooks spoke about the impact the saliva test had as an alternative to nasal PCR tests for health care workers.
“It means we no longer have to put health care professionals at risk for infection by performing nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal collections,” he said in a statement at the time.
“We can preserve precious personal protective equipment for use in patient care instead of testing. We can significantly increase the number of people tested each and every day as self-collection of saliva is more quick and scalable than swab collections. All of this combined will have a tremendous impact on testing in New Jersey and across the United States.”
Born and raised in New Jersey, Brooks received his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Rochester and later became its director of Medical Center Core Facilities. His career was distinguished by outstanding scholarship, service in the field of biomedicine and business activities designed to improve human health.
Brooks was a research professor in Rutgers-New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Genetics, an academic member of the Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey, a research faculty member in Rutgers’ Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute and a member of its NIHS Center of Excellence, and a member of the graduate faculty in Rutgers Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology.
He co-authored more than 70 publications and played a key role in providing consultation, biobanking and analytical services to many large research projects that have yielded insights into the genomic etiology of human diseases and the effects of environmental exposures. He also served 17 years as an adviser to the Food and Drug Administration as director of the Harlan (now Envigo) GeneScreen Laboratory and as co-founding director of the BioProcessing Solutions Alliance.
In his free time, Brooks was an accomplished amateur golfer, often known to play with his father. His skill, concentration and friendly competitive spirit led to victory in international tournaments. He is survived by his wife, Jil; three daughters, Lauren, Hannah and Danielle; his mother, Phyllis Brooks, his sister Janet Green and a niece and nephew.