Richard D. Head, MS
DEPARTMENT OF GENETICS
Professor of Genetics
2023 Dean’s Impact Award Recipient
Richard D. Head, MS, led a team of scientists that worked tirelessly to develop a novel test for detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their dedication, perseverance and expertise resulted in the successful development of a test that could accurately and quickly diagnose COVID-19 using a saliva sample rather than the nasal swab in common use at the time. The team took advantage of the infrastructure and expertise at the Elizabethe H. and James S. McDonnell III Genome Institute at Washington University and approached the challenge of developing a rapid, sensitive and less cumbersome viral test with creativity and resourcefulness. The team overcame many logistical hurdles to develop this test, and it is a testament to Head’s leadership that this novel saliva-based COVID-19 test was ready to go within four months after the first confirmed cases in St. Louis. This test became widely used at the Danforth Campus, in the St. Louis school system, at hospitals on the Washington University Medical Campus and throughout the state of Missouri. The development of this test was made possible by Head’s leadership and commitment to advancing health care via molecular genetics.