FDA Authorizes Saliva-Based COVID-19 Test Funded by NBA, NBPA

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 15, 2020

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver unveils the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award during a news conference Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
David Banks/Associated Press

A saliva-based coronavirus test funded by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association has received authorization from the United States Food and Drug Administration.   

Per ESPN's Zach Lowe, the FDA gave emergency authorization for the test developed by Yale University on Saturday. 

Lowe noted that prior to the NBA season restart, a group that included NBA players and staff members received saliva tests from Yale, and the results "almost universally matched" the nasal swab tests.

Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for health and COVID-19 testing coordinator admiral, said in the FDA's official release that the SalivaDirect test is an "innovation game changer that will reduce the demand for scarce testing resources."

According to the FDA, the saliva-based test is more efficient than the nasal swab test because it "does not require a separate nucleic acid extraction step," which has caused issues because the extraction kits "have been prone to shortages in the past."

Nathan Grubaugh, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale, told Lowe the saliva test is "simple enough" that it can be "used by labs everywhere provided they go through required accreditation processes."

Another key element of the test, according to Grubaugh, is that it increases the turnaround time for results and can be "up to 10 times cheaper" than the nasal swab. 

Lowe noted the NBA and NBPA contributions totaled more than $500,000, and this could have an impact on how the league structures the 2020-21 season.

"Any return to normalcyteams traveling to 28 home markets, the presence of even some token number of fans to offset revenue lossesis dependent on testing becoming easily available," Lowe wrote. "This could be one step, experts said."