Advice for Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes from former Apple exec

Theranos’ troubles seem to be mounting.

On Monday, Jean-Louis Gassee, the former head of engineering at Apple and a prolific, influential blogger, published a post detailing his experience with Theranos’ lab at the Walgreens on University Avenue in Palo Alto.

The upshot: The results from his repeated blood tests from the Theranos lab were quite off from his results at his regular Stanford lab.

Gassee wrote an undated letter to Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO of Theranos, who has promised to make blood tests more affordable and more accessible.

He detailed his experience, asked for a response before he blogged on the topic and offered some advice (Setting up an account, getting the app to work was difficult, several system errors, unfriendly UI…)

Holmes and Theranos didn’t reply.

Gassee’s post is just the latest attack on Theranos’ technology and integrity. Last week, the Wall Street Journal wrote about how FDA officials had made a surprise visit to the company and how the company’s technology was allegedly so problematic that the company had abandoned it for many tests, as I wrote about here.

Theranos has gone on the offensive. On Twitter, it has questioned the Journal’s reporting and on CNBC, Holmes characterized the criticism as a veiled attack on Theranos for trying to be disruptive in the diagnostic testing field.

It’s past time for Theranos to come clean.

First, it needs to stop playing the “disruption” card – claiming that one’s critics are competitors or the disgruntled who fear change.

Theranos needs to do its own internal inventory and figure out the discrepancies between its public statements and marketing with reality. And it needs to invite others to look at its results.

Only then can Theranos rescue itself from this slide.

Gassee offers his own recipe for Theranos:

To settle questions of integrity, Theranos could take a large sample of patients (the company claims to have administered “millions” of tests), compare numbers to Quest Diagnostics or Stanford results on the same patients… I’ll volunteer.

The exercise might look costly, but consider the alternative: Angry FDA regulators, lawsuits (Theranos already hired famed attorney David Boies as a preemptive measure) and, ultimately, the end of a dream.

Above: Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • kenrubenstein

    As a retired veteran of the in vitro diagnostics industry, I’ve doubted Theranos’ ‘disruption’ premise from the getgo. Lab test results taken out of context can be highly misleading. In combination with physical exam and patient interview data, they are highly useful adjuncts. Out of context, they can cause problems for people trying to make sense of the data.