Blood-Testing Company Theranos Struggles with Technology Development

Theranos, launched in 2003 and began selling to the public in 2013, boasts an offering of 240 tests, from cholesterol to cancer, collected just a small vial of blood from a finger prick. Theranos’ chairman, Elizabeth Holmes, had a phobia of needles and hopes this easy draw method will lead to earlier diagnoses. The company is valued at $9 billion, but it is struggling to improve itsanalysis equipment for the scope and accuracy of testing it promotes. Theranos’ own Edison device runs only 15 tests, with equipment designed by other companies running the other tests. The other equipment require larger amounts of samples, so the blood is diluted, producing erroneous results. Nearly a dozen doctors and nurses have complained about Theranos results.

British biochemist, Ian Gibbons, was hired in 2005 to develop the systems to process tiny amounts of fluid. Gibbons produced 23 patents and made slow progress in development before his untimely death in 2013. Theranos abides by all federal lab regulations and says it has not exaggerated its achievements. Their lawyer states that the Edison device is not yet used for all tests offered, that less common tests are done on traditional machines with larger vein-drawn blood samples.

While the Edison machine does not need FDA approval to sell tests because no other company uses the machine, all labs must prove that they can produce accurate results. Samples run on the Edison machine and a traditional machine produced different results for vitamin D levels, thyroid, and prostate cancer. Former employees state that Theranos’ President Balwani requested all proficiency-testing by done on the traditional machines and manipulated the process. The company confirmed that the two types of testing produced different results, yet never failed a proficiency test.

Theranos has run millions of tests on patients and received very positive patient feedback. Patients like the “user-friendliness” of the company, with locations at your nearest corner Walgreens drugstore and results within 15 minutes. There are 42 locations in the Phoenix area alone. A law passed in Arizona allows patients to get Theranos testing without a doctor’s order. Patients like Theranos’ low prices and will continue using their product as long as its tests prove accurate.
Carreyrou, John. “Hot Startup Theranos Has Struggled With Its Blood-Test Technology.” Business. 15 Oct 2015. Web. 15 Oct 2015.

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