On April 1, 2020, Lauren Spanjer Bricks’s world changed in an instant. That day, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration granted an Emergency Use Authorization for a COVID-19 PCR test developed by Ipsum Diagnostics, a Sandy Springs–based company that Bricks co-founded in 2016. They were only the fifth laboratory in the country to receive the authorization.
“Our test got the green light at the same time everyone in the country was realizing that this virus is an explosive problem,” says Bricks. “We were in the lab going 100 miles an hour and there was no stopping.”
In April, Governor Brian Kemp announced Ipsum as a key COVID-19 testing lab for the state, and they partnered with the Georgia Department of Public Health to fulfill all of their testing requirements. A year into the pandemic, Ipsum has tested more than a million samples, mostly from Georgia.
For the first time, Ipsum was flooded with calls from patients, frantic for their test results. “Typically labs interact with physicians’ offices, not patients, but all of a sudden we had thousands of phone calls and emails every day,” she says. Bricks noticed that many of the callers were native Spanish speakers who had trouble explaining what they needed.
Within a week, Ipsum had hired Spanish-speaking customer representatives, implemented a Spanish-language patient portal, and made all of Ipsum’s reports available in Spanish—the first COVID-19 testing facility to do so. “These are vulnerable populations and anything that we can do to help educate people about their status is one step closer to stopping the spread of this disease,” says Bricks.
Today, with COVID-19 vaccines available, Bricks is proud of the work Ipsum has done to help Georgians during the pandemic. “I’m the owner of this company, but I’m also a mother and I live in this community,” she says. “This virus was affecting everyone that I care about, everyone that our employees care about. We wanted to do right by them.”