As a molecular biologist, Dr. Amanda Brooks has conducted research at public universities that has led to the start of two private sector businesses within the pharmaceutical industry. She is currently an assistant professor at North Dakota State University researching the potential uses of spider silk, which has led to the start of Brooks Biomimetic in 2014. “I consider myself a pure scientist, and my goal has always been to help people… however, my research also leads to the development of businesses,” explained Dr. Brooks.
Scientist turned Entrepreneur
The theme of Dr. Brooks’ entrepreneurial journey has been researching leading to the start of businesses.
As a student at the University of Utah, Dr. Brooks participated on a research team seeking to improve total joint replacements. The research was purchased from the University, and the company Elute, INC was started. Elute is currently approaching the FDA for approval, and Dr. Brooks continues to advise the company as needed in terms of research and development. “I never meant to be a part of starting businesses… but I have found that the research can be best shared through a private business for public use,” shared Dr. Brooks.
During doctoral studies at the University of Wyoming, Dr. Brooks was connected with advisor Dr. Randy Lewis in the study of spider DNA sequences. This emphasis on a specific strand of DNA has led Dr. Brooks to the creation of her second business, Brooks Biomimetic. The research for the company is taking place within the labs right outside of her NDSU office. “I was supposed to figure out the properties of this DNA strand from density, strength, and elasticity… in a way it was like playing with Legos as an adult,” explained Dr. Brooks. The different building blocks of this spider silk DNA sequence have led to the potential pharmaceutical problems that Brooks Biomimetic is poised to solve.
The growth of Brooks Biomimetic
The initial business phase of Brooks Biomimetic is taking place on the campus of NDSU. Dr. Brooks is immensely grateful to NDSU as an incubator for this innovative research. At NDSU, Dr. Brooks has worked with Dr. Dan
Ewert teaching a discovery-based learning class. “We asked student engineers to take silk protein and turn it into fiber… and the end result was the creation of a microfluid chip that can simulate the creation of spider silk,” shared Dr. Brooks.
Along with NDSU, Brooks Biomimetic has utilized the North Dakota of Commerce Venture Grant Program and a NASA EPSCoR grant as catalysts into the first phase of development for their business. “We are using the unique properties of spider silk to create biomedical coding devices, blood stream infection solutions, and a bubble-like silk that contains drugs to fight specific infections,” explained Dr. Brooks. Spider silk is the platform for all of these innovations, which make the demand for spiders a top priority for future business expansion.
The next phase for Brooks Biomimetic is providing proof that the products are as advertised and can be produced at a high level. Dr. Brooks is joined in business with her husband, Ben Brooks. “We complement each other with our science and business backgrounds, and I couldn’t do this without him,” Dr. Brooks shared.
Learn more from Dr. Amanda Brooks and Brooks Biomimetic as she speaks at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.