In 2012, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) had a problem.
Or rather, they perceived a problem in the system they were tasked to oversee. Genetic testing was on the rise, and laboratories were using new technologies and methods to do things they never could before. In forensic science, processing was taking off, accelerating. But their counterparts, the crime scene investigators who provided the samples for testing, were not advancing at the same pace. To collect a quality DNA sample onsite and keep it preserved on the way to the lab without refrigeration was a challenge not yet addressed by the recent innovations in the field. Law enforcement was falling behind, and a disparity was growing between the two roles.
To bridge that gap, the NIJ collaborated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to form a panel of experts on the subject that could outline a solution and establish standards for the future. Thus, The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook was born, published in April of 2013.
While serving on this panel, I realized the solution to the problem. A device was needed to collect and process a swab in the same way that laboratories currently process a blood tube. And in 2012, I invented the SwabSaver, which I was certain would revolutionize the field, and I submitted a patent. The patent process proved to be much longer than anticipated, so I started my first company Fast Forward Forensics to sell other collection devices in the meantime. Finally in 2015, the SwabSaver was patented, and I received the necessary funding to move forward in 2018. By then, my team and I had even bigger plans, and we baked them straight into the name of my new company, Gentueri Inc. “Tueri” is Latin for protection, and we wanted to emphasize genetic protection, not only collecting samples but preserving them from the point of collection to the laboratory.
Everything was in order, and we were ready to start manufacturing our own products for non-invasive sample collection and preservation. By 2020, the SwabSaver was in pilot production, and I could not have been more excited. And then the pandemic hit.
Well, there was certainly bad news. But the good news was that we were in a perfect position to really help our community and make a difference during a time when most could not. So, Gentueri leapt into action. Directed by CDC guidelines, and partnering with the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, we registered four Covid-19 collection kits under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). All told, we supplied a total of almost two million kits to health departments around the Midwest.
I’m grateful to say that with that level of relevance to the biggest issue on the national docket, Gentueri grew rapidly. We were able to relocate from a 4,000 sq.ft facility to 10,000 sq.ft. We added additional cleanrooms, and most importantly, we were able to generate enough revenue to initiate automation into the manufacturing of our collection devices. Where previously twelve people could make 10,000 swabs per week, suddenly, two people could make that volume in a day. In 2021, Gentueri was recognized as the 112th fastest growing company in the US, and in Wisconsin, we were #1.
Of course, past 2021, the demand for Covid kits diminished. It was time to take all of our new resources and pivot towards new initiatives and improving our collection
devices. With our lowered cost of production, we could now engage with international markets. But even domestically, the contemporary and potential usage of non-invasive sample collection had exploded into a more verdant landscape than I ever could have imagined back in 2012.
Today, more than ever before, Gentueri is all about providing you with the complete package: products that bring confidence andquality from the collection of remote samples, to preservation and transport, all the way to the laboratory, with streamlined process integration.
We realize there is more to be done-we’re working on a submission for FDA clearance to begin providing for markets like disease screening, inheritance, and reproductive health. In the meantime, we have a line of innovative, quality products to offer for a wide variety of applications, including forensics, genetic testing, nutrition, and animal diagnostics.
What laboratories can do with biological samples is a marvel that changes every day. What they need in order to make it all happen, however, hasn’t changed. What they want is a tube, with a nice barcode on the outside and a clean, quality sample on the inside, that is ready for automated processing in their instruments. Previously, that referred to a tube of blood. However, forensic scientists have known for decades that a professionally drawn blood tube just isn’t an available option for every situation. Presently, those working in health and medicine are realizing a blood draw is not always necessary to obtain a robust sample to provide accurate results. Additionally, those in public health have begun to notice the potential for more equitable, diverse population studies that remote sample collection presents. The field of genetics has simply advanced beyond the need for the quantity of DNA that blood samples provide and can no longer afford the limitations they impose.
At Gentueri, we see all of this. That’s why we have dedicated our expertise to developing innovative devices and kits that can provide high quality samples for higher rates of success and optimum results.
We have experience with the gravity that non-invasive biological samples and their applications already have in our society, and we have watched as the future potential of those applications have bubbled up and come to a rolling boil.
All it needs are the right tools, and we have a decades-long head start on developing them.
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