I’ve been following the Theranos story. From the first I heard about their objective to do hundreds of analyses from less than a cc of blood, I was doubtful. There are basic and fundamental reasons that more blood might be required for an analysis. Many analyses are to find extremely small quantities of hard to distinguish molecules. Those two qualities together mean that you need a large quantity of the medium in which you are trying to find them – in this case, blood.
Theranos would have had to find a new way to do those hundreds of analyses, which rely on different chemistries, so there would be many new ways they needed to find. Laser enthusiasts at one time believed that they could do this spectrally, which has the feel of initial plausibility, but many unsuccessful attempts have convinced them otherwise. And Theranos wasn’t talking about lasers.
They weren’t talking about any specifics, which was also suspicious. Those alternative analysis methods would require big scientific advances, which would be worth publicizing. Those advances would have to be built on available science, which Theranos wasn’t talking about either.
John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal did the digging while other reporters had stars in their eyes over Elizabeth Holmes’s Steve Jobs imitation. Now he has a book out that sounds very worth reading. I am contemplating adding it to my pile of books to read.
It’s quite a story, about which I still have questions. How did Holmes flummox national security experts like George Schultz and James Mattis into being on her board? Why national security types rather than health experts? Was she consciously lying or deluded?
It’s a story of Silicon Valley overreach by many people.
And open thread!