When you go for a blood test, you may be fearful of the procedure, especially when it involves taking multiple large vials of blood from your arm. Now a biotech startup that offered an easier way to do blood testing is under fire for what some former employees and critics say are exaggerated claims about its ability to perform hundreds of screening tests.
The company, called Theranos, is headed by Elizabeth Holmes, purportedly the world’s youngest woman self-made billionaire, according to CNN. Last week, a Wall Street Journal report exposed the claims of four former company employees, who believe the company’s marketing claims are overselling the value of its technology.
Theranos says that its “Edison” blood testing machine can conduct hundreds of tests using only a finger prick sample of blood, when conventional testing requires larger vials from traditional blood draws. The company had already processed millions of tests, ordered by doctors for patients interested in the easier service.
But it appears that Theranos is processing most of the tests using conventional machines made by other companies, and using the Edison technology for very few screenings. In response, Holmes claimed the company has not used commercially available machines, but she did acknowledge that the company is not using its technology for all tests because it is holding off while waiting for FDA approval.
Critics note that Holmes founded the company as a nineteen year-old dropout, and questioned whether the company has the scientific or medical backing generally needed for cutting-edge biotechnology device development. The Theranos board is comprised mainly of former government and military officials, and lacks experienced scientists.