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Summit Biolabs’ saliva-based testing helped develop notably accurate COVID-19 tests

Entrepreneur Of Year Finalist Shi Long

Shi-Long Lu | Ph.D., M.D., Founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer | Summit Biolabs | Aurora

Originally from China, Shi-Long Lu came to the U.S. for postdoctoral research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1999. After a stint at Oregon State University, he relocated to the University of Colorado (CU) Anschutz Medical Campus in 2009.

Summit Biolabs emerged from CU’s SPARK Program that aims to commercialize research at the Anschutz campus. Launched in 2018, the company was the “first SPARKee,” says the 55-year-old Lu.

The company’s focus on saliva-based testing for head and neck cancers – dubbed HNKlear – provided an entry point to develop notably accurate COVID-19 tests in 2020. “Saliva is basically the reservoir for the whole respiratory tract,” Lu says. “You have very good specificity and sensitivity [for testing] when you use saliva.”

While Summit’s COVID-19 tests have been widely used, Lu is again focused on cancer. He sees Colorado and CU as an ideal launchpad for the 15-employee company. “You definitely need very strong university support,” he says. “Colorado’s ecosystem in health tech is the top nationwide. It’s more attractive than the East and West coasts.”


This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine’s annual Entrepreneur of the Year feature. Read more about this year’s winner, Matanya Horowitz, and the other finalists: