When COVID-19 first hit the United States in early 2020, everything required to identify and treat the disease was in short supply.
Most critical for identifying virus cases and the prevention of its spread was reliable testing, and the race to create those tests began in earnest within the country’s medical technology companies. One of those companies, Hologic, Inc., created two of the first SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) tests to receive FDA authorization.
In short order, Hologic, widely known as a leader in diagnostic tests in the women’s health arena, was producing one million tests per week across all 50 states.
“We saw an urgent need and were able to use Hologic’s existing knowledge and equipment and pivot quickly in the direction of developing tests for COVID-19,” says Chase Mertz ’11. As of late summer 2020, the company had increased its weekly distribution of tests to two million.
For Mertz, who works in marketing for the diagnostics division of Hologic, the ability to play a role in fighting the biggest public health crisis of our time has provided additional meaning and urgency to a job that was already playing a critical role in preventive medicine. “I’m proud to say that we are greatly contributing to fighting this pandemic. Early on, when testing was such a dire need, we raced to develop a test and were able to then scale up our production and provide what the country and the world needed,” he explains. “The fact that Hologic’s tests have a very high level of accuracy is extremely gratifying.”
Mertz joined Hologic after graduating from Dartmouth in 2015, where he studied biology and economics. The job was an ideal fit. “Marketing products like this, you have to have knowledge of the science and speak the language of the industry,” Mertz says. “It’s a huge advantage when you have a good understanding of the essence of your company’s products.”
A lifer who joined LJCDS in kindergarten, Mertz was encouraged in many science classes, especially AP Biology. His teacher, Susan Domanico, Ph.D., set him up with a summer internship in a lab at Scripps Research, which helped to solidify his commitment to pursuing a career in the biology sphere.
“Country Day is very good at connecting students with industry, where they can put their knowledge into practice. They are great at making sure that students are truly aware of the world around them and what’s going on in it,” says Mertz. “Having that kind of awareness, and the encouragement to go out and do what you want to do to impact your world for the better, has never been more important.”