Cue Health snags the rebound, reupping NBA COVID testing contract for another season

For the third NBA season in a row, Cue Health is hoping to lead the league in assists as its go-to COVID-19 testing company.

The NBA has tapped Cue to serve as its official provider of at-home and point-of-care tests throughout the 2021-22 season. For the entire season—which is returning to the pre-pandemic lineup of 82 regular-season games per team and will span from next week until the finals in June—all players and referees will have access to Cue’s portable molecular testing kits.

The system tests for COVID using a nasal swab that’s inserted into a single-use cartridge and analyzed by the battery-powered Cue Reader. The molecular analyzer wirelessly transmits test results to a connected smartphone within 20 minutes. In March, Cue’s system became the first molecular COVID diagnostic to receive emergency authorization from the FDA for at-home, over-the-counter use.

“After exploring a number of different at-home and point of care COVID-19 testing options for the upcoming season, we selected Cue thanks to its combination of accuracy, information management, ease of use and speed,” said David Weiss, senior vice president of player matters at the NBA.

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The partnership is a continuation of the bond forged between Cue and the NBA over a year ago, as the pandemic sent the league scrambling to find a way to safely complete its 2019-2020 season. When the audience-free “bubble” was introduced in June 2020, Cue’s test—then authorized for point-of-care use under the supervision of a medical professional—was used in a pilot program to screen a cohort of the league's staff.

Later, after the Cue system received the FDA’s OK for at-home use, it was tapped by the basketball league for regular testing in the final months of the slightly truncated but bubble-less 2020-21 season. According to Cue, the results of that initiative will be published in a scientific journal later this year.

As players and officials use the system throughout the upcoming season, their results will be uploaded to the online Cue Health Enterprise Dashboard, where they’ll be able to automatically share their test results with their doctors and league officials throughout the season.

“Since the NBA returned to the court last year, we have worked closely with them to make our fast and accurate testing available anywhere, anytime to prioritize players’ health while enabling more effective decision-making throughout the league,” said Cue CEO Ayub Khattak. “For the coming season, we’re honored to have the privilege of helping keep players, coaches, staff, referees and their families healthy.”

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The NBA team-up comes even as Cue is broadening its sights beyond COVID testing. Its hand-held molecular testing system can be adapted to tests for flu, respiratory syncytial virus, women’s health and sexual health conditions and more.

Those are all currently in the pipeline for Cue, which went public in September and is now traded on the Nasdaq as “HLTH.” Amid its debut, which brought in about $200 million, the company’s co-founder and chief product officer, Clint Sever, affirmed in an interview to Fierce Medtech that Cue is “way more than a COVID-19 testing company.”

With the proceeds from the IPO, he said, “We’ll be investing more to grow our menu of tests, we’ll be investing to expand our production capacity, to add additional software and services and to further build out the team.”

Editor's note: This story was updated Oct. 14 to clarify Cue's support of the NBA "bubble."