After working at the university’s medical center for four years, he returned to New Jersey to take a job at Rutgers, and in 2009 joined its Cell and DNA Repository, a university-owned company that provides data management and analysis for biological research.
Dr. Brooks became the company’s chief operating officer, discovering that he had a flair for the business side of science. He expanded the company from just a few dozen employees to nearly 250, working with nearly every major pharmaceutical company.
“Most scientists I meet are not interested, or are incidentally interested, in the commercialization of what they do,” said Dr. Jay Tischfield, a Rutgers professor and chief executive of the repository. “Andy understood that if you want something to get out and be used, you have to be a player. You can’t rely on other people.”
In 2018 the company, by then called the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository Infinite Biologics, decided to go private; Dr. Brooks was named chief executive. The university agreed with the move but kept a significant stake in the new company, now called Infinity Biologix.
The resources and experience he accrued at the repository made it relatively easy for Dr. Brooks to develop the coronavirus spit test, which he did in partnership 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,” Dr. Tischfield said, to adapt those techniques to extract RNA from the coronavirus. The company even had thousands of tubes on hand that it could use to collect samples.
After the F.D.A. granted approval, Dr. Brooks faced a different challenge: scale. He needed significantly more equipment and staff, immediately, to produce the tests and process the results. But a propitious call from the White House offering help, and a multimillion-dollar loan arranged by Dr. Tischfield allowed the company to add additional analytic equipment rapidly and to nearly double its work force almost overnight.