Cue it be real?
Creating a whole new healthcare ecosystem… please don’t be the new Theranos.
Imagine… what if you could diagnose a disease from the comfort of your home? What if you could track your health progress on a molecular level? What if you can seamlessly do all of this from your smartphone? Stop imagining, its name is Cue.
“Cue is a revolutionary new device that connects you to your health at the molecular level. Simply load a cartridge and add a sample to access deep information about your body, on demand and on your schedule. Discover every day how activity, food, and sleep shape your body’s story. And achieve meaningful, daily improvements to tell a new one.” (Cue) .
This device and its app are able to provide information on Vitamin D, Inflammation, Influenza, Testosterone, and Fertility. It can alert you from basic irregularities and opportunities and also recommend actions based on your results, for example: if you are low on Vitamin D, it can advise you to go for a run and put that on your calendar in your phone . The applications are endless, as technology continues to improve, this device will evolve into more accurate tests, more health factors tracking and seamless interactions with medical professionals.
The entire business model is leveraging digitalization trends while disrupting a centuries-old industry. Taking invasive blood samples for tests will drop, visits to the hospital for mundane health concerns will drop, mainstream health consciousness will rise, available time for nurses and doctors to do more life-threatening work will rise, communication through digitalization will improve, and the list of benefits goes on and on. “It makes a really big difference if you can see the actual results for yourself on a daily basis” (Ayub Khattak, Cue founder) .
Nevertheless, is this too good to be true? Is this going to become the new Theranos?
Theranos is a health technology company founded by Elizabeth Holmes in 2003 that reached its peak valuation in 2014 of $9 billion , but today, it is valued only at $800 million . Theranos value proposition was based on the simplification of blood testing by completely replacing the syringe with a new method that draws blood droplets from your fingertips instead of the usual invasive method. After some detailed investigations from the Wall Street Journal, the FDA and the SEC regarding the accuracy of their tests and the argument of misleading investors, the valuation dropped significantly and the company became practically worthless.
There’s a long discussion well explained in Christina Farr’s article referenced in my bibliography regarding the type of investments made in the health care industry, especially in new ventures such as Theranos . So, how do we know if Cue is going to become the new Theranos? There are a couple of arguments that I would like to bring up on why this isn’t going to happen:
- Cue is not trying to replace anybody. This product is focused on leveraging the modern digital interactions that we have every day with our smartphones and how these are going to become more intimate in the future by providing us with basic, but extremely powerful information.
- Cue is enhancing interactions. Imagine if this product can provide daily tracking data not only to the patient but also to his doctor on his smartphone automatically. The rapidness of this information will allow the physician to have more updated data and therefore be able to detect any particular deviation from a medical plan.
- Cue is focused on lifestyle. People are becoming more health conscious as the new generations start to take control, and these people want to know more information, more detailed and become more involved. Cue will provide this service through its digital platform and device.
On the other hand, there is still a lot to be done to reach mass production and mainstream population. One of the key things I would like to see Cue do is to partner with hospitals that scientifically challenge Cue’s tests accuracy and get to an agreement on what are the things Cue can detect and advise. This was a big issue with Theranos and could be the key to reaching its full potential in the upcoming years.
Whether it is Theranos, Cue or any other health technology company, this trend is live and growing and will happen in the foreseeable future. It is in Cue’s hands to learn from Theranos’ mistakes and be cautious but inspirational on the way it positions its product and service to the consumer, the medical community, and the investors.
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- Farr, Christina. “The Theranos Scandal Is Just The Beginning”. Fastcompany, 2016. https://www.fastcompany.com/3059230/the-theranos-scandal-is-just-the-beginning accessed November 2016.
- Parloff, Roger. “This CEO is out for blood”. Fortune, June 2014. http://fortune.com/2014/06/12/theranos-blood-holmes/ accessed November 2016.
- Herper, Matthew. “From $4.5 Billion To Nothing: Forbes Revises Estimated Net Worth Of Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes”. Forbes, June 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2016/06/01/from-4-5-billion-to-nothing-forbes-revises-estimated-net-worth-of-theranos-founder-elizabeth-holmes/#286c2d232f29 accessed November 2016.
- Lomas, Natasha. “Cue Draws In $7.5M For Its Health Tracking Lab-In-A-Box”. Techcrunch, November 2014. https://techcrunch.com/2014/11/19/cue-series-a/?ncid=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29 accessed November 2016.
- Winter, Caroline. “Cue Home Test Kit Tracks Fertility, Flu, Other Results”. Bloomberg, July 2014. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-07-10/cue-home-test-kit-tracks-fertility-flu-other-results accessed November 2016.
- “Introducing Cue”. Youtube, published May 12, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32YwVuiAgEg accessed November 2016.
- Cue Inc. “Product”. https://cue.me/product accessed November 2016.
Student comments on Cue it be real?
Cue’s technology and value proposition sound incredible! I agree with you that the shift in the population towards more health conscious attitudes offers a very attractive environment and target market for Cue. I’d be curious to see the pricing and actual mechanics for taking the end user samples to better understand the consumers’ ultimate willingness to pay and adopt. One of the biggest challenges Cue will have to face is gaining and sustaining adoption, given that many fitness and health tracking technologies exist today and can innovate to match Cue’s offering. I think one way Cue can mitigate these effects is by tapping into a first mover advantage and build a network of users, and then add a competitive, ranking, or social element to the tracking service. Potentially by matching friends with the same goals, such as increasing vitamin D, to go on runs together or go out to eat at specific healthy restaurants. Personally, I’m fascinated by this technology and hope it comes to market soon!
Juan, thanks for the article – awesome technology! The main issue to me – it’s the accuracy and I like your idea of partnerships with hospitals to test it. I’m also curious about possible or potential competitors, pursuing similar or alternative technologies. Did you see any information about that?
Thanks Juan for a really great discussion on a potential at-home blood diagnostic device. As you and others mentioned, following the negative legacy that Theranos has left in the space will require substantial PR campaigns to convince consumers of its efficacy (assuming there is data to support such efficacy). While the applications could be endless, I agree that for the time being focusing on lifestyle applications would be best. For scientists and physicians, the prospect of having an at-home device to run any diagnostic test is exciting; there’s no longer a need to visit the doctor to test a health hypothesis! However, for the average consumer that might not understand which tests to run or how to interpret results, it could be a recipe for disaster. If test results are not perfectly in range, this could send the consumer into a panic and to the doctor, unnecessarily driving up healthcare costs. I also wonder how Cue will need to work with the FDA moving forwards and as they expand their test sets. I think this important to consider given lack of FDA buy-in was why 23andMe was forced to initially remove their health reports from their product offerings back in 2013. Therefore, if Cue expands their test set, it should be done carefully and in consultation with physicians and the FDA. Nonetheless, I think it’s an extremely exciting technology that has the potential to bring a lot of value to consumers.
Thanks Juan! Cue is part of an exciting trend around personalized medicine / diagnostics. It combines the idea of increased information leading to greater prevention of disease, simplification of data delivery to encourage people to take action, and greater individualization of results through technology. I thought it was funny how the initial list of things it can detect are “Vitamin D, Inflammation, Influenza, Testosterone, and Fertility” which seem pretty unrelated – but I think it highlights the point that Cue wants to establish itself as a platform for ‘testing anything’ in the comfort of your home. So the first step is just to get the hardware into your home, and the minute they figure out how to add on an additional test, they can easily add that on as a software upgrade. Super easy / scalable.