T

heranos this week laid off all but about two dozen of its remaining employees — the latest indignity for the once fabulously rich blood-testing company that’s become a parable for Silicon Valley hubris.

As with much of the flood of bad news for Theranos, word of the layoffs came from John Carreyrou, the investigative reporter at the Wall Street Journal who was the first to break the story of the company’s troubles in October 2015 and who later landed a string of Theranos-related scoops.

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  • This copy seemed a bit off from all the politicians on the board (and few if any noteworthy scientists) as well as Holmes’ alleged fear of needles just struck as being really weird. Little did I know the whole thing was a fraud. Thanks for reporting on this. This story will need to be told and studied for years to come.

  • The deceit was obvious in an article from December 2014. Theranos refused to publish anything yet applied to the FDA for approval of its blood tests, even though that was unprecedented in diagnostics and unnecessary, and it wasn’t clear if the FDA had a means of responding. Holmes stated, “We believe that to realize our vision we must operate at the highest levels of excellence (…) [a]nd the F.D.A.’s stamp of approval is seen as an indicator of the quality of a product.” She was just postponing the catastrophe that she richly deserved.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/15/blood-simpler

  • I have no background in biotech, but I have a strong interest in health care and patient safety. From the time I read an article about Theranos in the Wall Street Journal years ago, I was thrilled that the possibility of less invasive blood testing might become a reality. Many, including my own physician, were convinced this technology worked. We switched to Theranos for my own INR testing (I was taking Coumadin) when testing became available at Walgreens in Palo Alto. Not long after I had several months of finger pricks, the Theranos test failed to show that my INR had risen to a dangerous level.
    My “due diligence” had included noting the reputable people on its Board, and I even read through comments from professionals in other labs. It did dismay me that these were mostly skeptical about Theranos, but I assumed that much more care had been taken to assure that harm would not befall patients, even more so than stockholders. I bought the hype that drug companies had used the technology to speed their own testing, that Holmes had a truly idealistic vision, as well as all the other articles that had touted Theranos.

  • Martin Shkreli is in prison and Holmes free due to the sexism which is endemic to the justice system. Men not only get harsher sentences for the same crime, they get harsher sentences for lesser crimes.

    • Whoa. M.S. had a big mouth and used it frequently, irritating law enforcement.

      Say what you will about E.H. — she did keep her mouth shut, when necessary.

    • If justice is meted out based on popularity and skilled public relations, the system is irredeemably corrupted.

    • Nicolas, the DOJ hasn’t come down yet but they have been working with the SEC on this investigation. It’s a matter of time before the DOJ weighs in and I believe they will.

  • Having been in the biotech area for decades, the book seems to be describing at least 70% of the failed biotech leaders. I believe that the assumption that she was the manipulator, is naive, as a rule of thumb, those dreamers are usually the ones being manipulated. The presumed lying, indeed making statements that would not be proven to be right in the future, is common in biotech; which may explain why the failures exceed by large the successes. Finally, a postmortem of many biotech companies will show that many individuals did what she did, but they became rich as well as respected members of our society. Ironically, many of those companies were public, which means their board of directors did not care at all about the shareholders. While she is not an example of virtue, the reporter should check past failures that in most cases were obviously due to negligence, incompetence and yes, taking liberties with the actual facts, and not just try to make this young and obviously naive women the Messalina of biotechnology, ignoring the many Caligulas that got a free ride.

  • Excellent. I’ve been following this story for a long time.

    https://tinyurl.com/ybpjyd2s

    I come from an old-school lab QA background, and I cover the (mostly Silicon Valley) health tech space. STATnews is a priority daily stop for me.

    Can’t wait to read his book.

    Someone needs to be prosecuted for criminal fraud here.

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