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San Diego COVID Test Maker to Lay Off Half Its Workforce

San Diego COVID Test Maker to Lay Off Half Its Workforce

Coronavirus testing in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 25, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin

5/8/2024

Updated: 5/8/2024

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Cue Health, a COVID test maker based in San Diego, is laying off nearly half of its remaining workforce as business slows, the company announced May 1.
Early in the pandemic, the health-testing firm developed a federally funded, over-the-counter coronavirus test. It made a name for itself after signing high-profile deals to serve as COVID screener to the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
With declining interest in COVID testing, however, the company’s stock value has tanked from a high of $20 a share to $0.14 Tuesday.
The company has decided to refocus, according to Chief of Staff Jessie Wick, by returning to its core technology–the Cue Health Monitoring System–which offers a range of at-home testing for people to manage heart and sexual health, food sensitivities, and other conditions.
“Cue is moving away from [at-home, mail-in test kits and prescription order and delivery] for now,” Ms. Wick told The Epoch Times. “Cue has significantly reduced, or removed altogether, functions that don’t directly support this strategy.”
Once valued at $2.3 billion when it went public in 2021, Cue Health is now worth about $22 million, according to the NASDAQ stock market.
Cue Health, which has been under pressure from investors to cut costs, implemented a new cost-reduction plan May 1 as it narrows its focus on core technology, according to its Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.
The reduction will include laying off 230 employees, about 49 percent of its global workforce, according to Cue Health.
Cue Health’s founder Ayub Khattak stepped down as chief executive officer in March as the company began a review of its business and operations.
Chief Product Officer and co-founder Clint Sever took over as CEO on March 20, while Mr. Khattak remains as a member of the board of directors, according to a statement.
The two founders started the company after graduating from college, hoping to revolutionize health care by putting it in the hands of consumers and empowering people to “live their healthiest lives,” according to Cue Health financial statements.
Starting in 2020, COVID testing boosted the company’s income from zero to about $212 million in less than two years. The company manufactured the COVID tests using federal funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at its San Diego headquarters, where they built production and assembly lines.
By the end of 2020, Mr. Khattak made $7.5 million in salary, bonus, and other compensation. Mr. Sever received $4.2 million, an SEC report revealed.
Cue Health was awarded a $13 million contract in March 2020 to accelerate the development, validation, and Food and Drug Administration clearance of its COVID-19 test.
Before the pandemic in 2019, the company reported no revenue from products, according to its financial filings. That changed in 2020, when it reported $15.4 million in income and $7.6 million in grant funding. By June 30, 2021, Cue Health brought in $212 million in product revenue.
The cartridge-based test was the first molecular test to get FDA Emergency Use Authorization for at-home and over-the-counter use without a prescription, according to the company.
The test can be taken at home to detect COVID-19 by using a nasal swab that is inserted into the test base cartridge. Results are then delivered to the test-taker’s mobile device. Cue Health lists the price for the tests online at $349 for a three-pack.
During the pandemic, Cue Health’s workforce grew to 1,515 full-time employees by the end of 2022.
The company first began slashing its workforce in 2023, cutting more than 200 positions in two rounds of layoffs in January. It also let go hundreds of employees in 2022 and 2023 amid tech industry layoffs statewide.
In all, the company has laid off 884 workers, mostly in San Diego, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Companies are required to notify the state at least 60 days before a mass layoff or plant closure.
The company is developing a new test to detect other viruses.
Cue Health was awarded a federal $28.4 million contract in August 2023 to develop a flu and COVID-19 test that can be sold over the counter. The test is expected to detect and differentiate between influenza A and B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19, with results delivered in about 25 minutes to mobile devices.
“We expect this test will arm individuals and their providers with actionable information that can reduce community spread, increase the efficacy of treatment, and help lead to better health outcomes,” Chairman Ayub Khattak said in an August 2023 statement.
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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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