Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Attempts To Clear Up The Bad Blood With WSJ

21 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Theranos CEO Calls WSJ a Tabloid at WSJ’s Own Conference.

“Drama” is not usually a word uttered in the same breath as “tech conference.” But at this year’s WSJDLive, The Wall Street Journal’s second annual digital confab, the question on everyone’s lips was, would Elizabeth Holmes show? The 31-year-old CEO of Theranos was scheduled as a guest speaker long before the same newspaper hosting the event published a brutal exposé of the secretive blood-testing startup. — Elizabeth Holmes, the chief executive of Theranos, a private blood testing start-up, defended the company on Wednesday and said recent reports that questioned the reliability and accuracy of Theranos technology were false. Holmes bravely took the hot seat in the midst of a very public brawl with the Journal, which published a couple articles alleging Theranos wasn’t using its own tech for most of the 240 tests it provides and that the accuracy of those tests results were suspect.

Holmes has given interviews since the story appeared last week to push back against its claims, but that’s not the same thing as showing up in the heart of enemy territory. Fingers clacked away and the tweets popped off at a heady pace as Holmes batted down accusations and stood by her claims that the Journal got it wrong. “There’s a lot of different elements of our work that have become conflated,” Holmes said onstage. The crux of her response related to Theranos’s decision to submit its finger-stick blood-test process—which uses a tiny finger prick rather than the more intimidating technique of drawing blood from an arm vein—to the FDA for approval.

Her comments came after a Wall Street Journal investigation that raised queries about Theranos and its blood-testing technology. “We know the integrity of what we’ve done,” Ms. When we do finger pricks that is proprietary technology not available.” Part of the argument against Theranos was the use of its proprietary machines. In that instance, Holmes was specifically referring to a Journal report that Food and Drug Administration inspectors recently showed up unannounced at Theranos over concerns about data it had submitted to the agency. This is a company valued at more than $9 billion, based on technology that promises to provide accurate blood work results of tests for things like HIV, diabetes and cancer faster and cheaper with just a finger prick of blood. Krim also brought up comments about Theranos in the wake of the Journal’s article by former Apple engineering head Jean-Louis Gassée and Google Ventures chief Bill Maris.

She said the Journal‘s claim Theranos was using its proprietary Edison technology to run just fifteen of more than 200 tests it offers was irrelevant, because “Edison” was a company codename for old tech it doesn’t use anymore. That had more to do with FDA compliance, according to Holmes. “We have voluntarily decided not to use our nanotainer tubes until we cut over to the left side of the road,” Holmes said, referring to switching to FDA methodology. Holmes waived off claims of dilution in the tests, “I don’t even think that’s possible,” she said. “To dilute it and put it on a commercial analyzer is not what we do.” Holmes also batted down GV’s Bill Maris claim that Theranos and Google’s venture capital arm had been in financing discussions at one point. Holmes has graced the covers of magazines including The New York Times’s T Magazine, Fortune and Inc., and she became a frequent presence on the conference circuit. She recently appeared at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit alongside Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and Walt Disney’s chief, Bob Iger.

She said that her father, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, had always told her that “the job of a reporter is to tell truth to the readers.” Holmes repeatedly said that Theranos is working on an in-depth response to the WSJ’s accusations—which is good, because an onstage interview at a tech conference, as compelling as this one was, could never resolve the highly technical questions that the WSJ raised. In addition to defending her company, which is valued at $9 billion on more than $400 million in funding, Holmes went on the offensive against the Journal’s sources.

But she also said the articles would not change anything about Theranos’s overarching plans: “We’re the exact same company we were last Wednesday, before these two articles were published.” For the length of her onstage appearance, which lasted more than 30 minutes, Holmes was unwavering in her defense of her company and her criticism of the Journal.

But I at least came away feeling like she still didn’t address the more fundamental concern, which isn’t just the company’s science, but how Theranos has played into the Silicon Valley myth-making machine to give the impression that its technology is more advanced than it is. The company has since stopped using the nanotainer for all but one test, a test for herpes simplex virus Type 1, for which it has received F.D.A. approval to use the nanotainer. Holmes punted accusation after accusation, even shrugging off a question about the lack of peer-reviewed papers. “It’s not that we don’t want to go that route. Holmes said on stage that Theranos had decided “to voluntarily submit all of our tests and test systems to F.D.A.,” which “meant that we have to move as a company from the lab framework and quality systems to the F.D.A. framework and quality systems.” She added that the F.D.A. made an unannounced inspection of Theranos over the summer, but she did not think it was out of the ordinary.

However, Holmes also mentioned she felt an “obligation to customers to give clear answers,” and that “Part of what I realized by reading these articles is maybe because we’re only in Arizona in a deep way right now, people don’t understand what we actually do.” (note that Theranos also has a wellness center in Palo Alto, California). When asked what tests the company is able to perform using anything other than commercially available lab equipment, like Theranos’s proprietary equipment, Ms.

The company’s outside lawyer, David Boies, previously told The Times that Theranos runs just a minority of the blood tests that it conducts on its proprietary machine, but that the company will someday conduct all of its tests on that system. The Theranos founder mentioned repeatedly during the interview that her company was about to drop some long-awaited knowledge on the Internet. “We’ve got a very long document about to go on the Internet,” she told the audience.

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