Porcupyn's Blog

October 29, 2015

Online reputation and Theranos

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 7:39 am

A few months (maybe even a couple of years ago), I came across this article about an attractive young women (Elizabeth Holmes) being one of the youngest billionaires. She had started a blood testing company (Theranos) and was going head to head with the big honchos and so on, the article stated.

A few weeks later, that article faded from my memory, until an old hostelmate asked some pointed questions about her and her company in an email group that I belong to. Specifically, he was asking whether others had ever gotten their blood drawn at a Theranos lab and what they had thought about the results (accuracy, timeliness, etc). No one in the group had ever been tested there, but there were mixed reactions – some had heard of Theranos, others had not; of those who had heard about the company, some had also learned that folks out there were trying to sully the company’s reputation.

Well, said the original questioner, how about some of you get your blood drawn at your megaLabCorp and – at the same time – go to a Theranos-approved location, then see if the results match. Fair enough (and that is where I exited the conversation, after checking and confirming that I couldn’t participate in the control group exercise, there being no Theranos-facility closer to me than the midwest!!).

But then I did some googling. Sure enough, the jury was apparently still out on whether or not the results from Theranos are accurate enough. It appeared to me that Ms. Holmes has hit the main bullet points for creating a very favourable online reputation for her company.

However, it does appear that for each article that praises her company, there are enough detractors (see the comments section of the linked article). So, at this point, until I learn more from my friends’ control group test (and/or have access to Theranos), it is “same old same old” for me.

This week I attended the Medical Innovation Summit and saw Elizabeth Holmes being interviewed by Dr Delos Cosgrove, CEO of one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world – The Cleveland Clinic. The gathering was attended by forward thinking doctors and researchers in all medical fields as well as private investors, family offices and venture firms that invest in medicine. Holmes was in her comfort zone surrounded by medical professionals and we can certainly acknowledge that women in the STEM fields are among the most promising entrepreneurs.

Holmes is the founder of Theranos – a private, venture backed U.S. company that is working to disrupt the $60 billion blood testing industry. After dropping out of Stanford in 2003, Holmes founded Theranos at the age of 19. The company invented an innovative blood testing approach that revolutionizes not only how painlessly blood tests can be done, but also by how low cost and accessible the tests can be to the masses. Her company employs over 100 engineers and scientists along with other support staff.

Holmes’ incredible work and innovation has been on the cover of magazines such as Forbes, Inc., and the New York Times. Among other achievements, these publications discussed Theranos’ FDA clearance in July for its new hardware, software, at-home blood drawing equipment, and test for the herpes simplex virus.

In mid-October, an article written by the WSJ questioned the validity of some of Theranos’ tests and sparked further examination of the company. It is striking how fast a person such as Holmes can be the darling of the media one day and the focal point of a maelstrom the next.

It is impossible to know at this time if any of the claims made about the Theranos tests have merit. It is relevant to note that the FDA has already approved the first test. Only medical professionals who have the necessary expertise can review the medical efficacy.

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