Theranos is an American privately held health technology company based in Palo Alto, California. The company has been recognised for its fingerstick and microfluidics technology. It was founded in 2003 by Elizabeth Holmes at the age of 19. By 2014, Theranos had raised more than $400 million in funding with an estimated value of $9 billion.
In 2015, Theranos received negative news coverage due to concerns about the effectiveness of its technologies. The company's net worth is estimated to be $800 million as of June 2016. In July 2016, Theranos received sanctions from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) including the revocation of its CLIA certificate and prohibition of the owners and operators from owning or operating a lab for two years. Theranos announced that it would close its laboratory operations and wellness centres to work on miniature medical testing machines in October 2016.
While at Stanford University, Elizabeth Holmes created a wearable patch to adjust the dosage of drug delivery and notify doctors wirelessly of variables in patient's blood. She started developing lab-on-a-chip technology for blood tests and the idea for a company that would make testing cheaper, more convenient and accessible to consumers. Holmes used the education trust from her parents for Stanford to found the company that would later be called Theranos, which is a combination of the words "therapy" and "diagnosis".
In 2004, Theranos was headquartered out of a rented basement located near a strip mall by the Stanford campus. By December 2004, Theranos had more than $6 million from investors with an estimated value of $30 million. The company had about $45 million total fundraising after Series B and Series C funding in 2006. Theranos raised an additional $45 million in 2010 and had an estimated value of $1 billion.
The company moved to the former headquarters of Facebook in June 2012. During its first 10 years of operation, Theranos was in stealth mode, similar to additional Silicon Valley startups, which received criticism from the media and scientific community. The company had significant news coverage starting in September 2013 after profiles in the San Francisco Business Times and Wall Street Journal. By 2014, Theranos had raised more than $400 million with an estimated value of $9 billion. In July 2015, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the company's fingerstick blood testing device for the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) outside a clinical laboratory setting. Theranos was awarded the 2015 Bioscience Company of the Year by AzBio.
In 2016, Forbes revised the estimated net worth of the company to $800 million taking into account the $724 million of capital raised.
In September 2013, Theranos partnered with Walgreens to offer in-store blood tests at more than 40 locations. Walgreens announced plans to expand the "wellness centers" across the United States. The company's blood tests were used on drug trial patients of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. Each company stated that there were no ongoing active projects with Theranos in October 2015. In November 2016, Walgreen Co. filed suit against Theranos in a federal court in Delaware, for breach of contract. They are seeking $140 million in damages.
Cleveland Clinic announced a partnership with Theranos to test its technology in order to decrease the cost of lab tests. Theranos became the lab-work provider for Pennsylvania insurers, AmeriHealth Caritas and Capital BlueCross, in July 2015.
During its first decade of operation, the company developed devices to automate and miniaturise blood tests using microscopic blood volumes. Theranos was best known for its "nanotainer" fingerstick, which draws a microliter sample of blood from the capillaries in a patient's hand. Theranos claimed to have data verifying the accuracy and reliability of its tests that would be published.
Its technology has been criticised for not being scientifically peer reviewed. In February 2016, Theranos announced that it would permit the Cleveland Clinic to complete a validation study of its technology. The Journal of Clinical Investigation found that the company's blood test results were "much more in line with the others than they're out of line" in March 2016. In August 2016, the company introduced a new robotic, capillary blood testing unit named miniLab to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, not presenting any data related to its previous test results.
Since its foundation in 2003, Holmes has been the company's chief executive officer. She recruited Channing Robertson, a chemical-engineering professor at Stanford, to be a technical advisor and the company's first board member throughout its early years. Sunny Balwani, a software engineer Holmes had met throughout high school, joined the company as its President and chief operating officer in 2009. In July 2011, Holmes was introduced to former Secretary of State George Shultz, who joined the Theranos board of directors that same month. Over the next three years, Shultz helped to introduce almost all the outside directors on the "all-star board," which included William Perry (former Secretary of Defense), Henry Kissinger (former Secretary of State), Sam Nunn (former U.S. Senator), Bill Frist (former U.S. Senator and heart-transplant surgeon), Gary Roughead (Admiral, USN, retired), James Mattis (General, USMC), Richard Kovacevich (former Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO) and Riley Bechtel (chairman of the board and former CEO at Bechtel Group). The board was criticised for consisting "mainly of directors with diplomatic or military backgrounds."
In April 2016, Theranos announced its medical advisory board which included past presidents or board members of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Members were invited to review the company's proprietary technologies and advise on the integration into clinical practice. The board included past presidents or board members of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry such as Susan A. Evans, William Foege, former director U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, David Helfet, director of the Orthopedic Trauma Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery and professors, Ann M. Gronowski, Larry J. Kricka, Jack Ladenson, Andy O. Miller and Steven Spitalnik.
Balwani left his position as President and COO in May 2016. At that time, the company announced its new board members, Fabrizio Bonanni (former executive vice president of Amgen), Richard Kovacevich and William Foege, (former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), who would help to publicly introduce its technologies.
As of May 2016, the Theranos board of directors are:
- Elizabeth Holmes, Founder and CEO
- Riley Bechtel, former Bechtel Group CEO
- David Boies, a founder and the chairman of Boies Schiller & Flexner
- William Foege, former director U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Richard Kovacevich, former Wells Fargo CEO and chairman
- James Mattis, retired USMC General
- Fabrizio Bonanni, former executive vice president of Amgen
The FDA received a formal inquiry to look at Theranos blood test devices by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2012 before the devices were commercially available and didn't require FDA approval. FDA inspection reports from 2014 and 2015 stated that its containers for blood collection were "not validated under actual or simulated use conditions" and "were not reviewed and not approved by designated individual(s) prior to issuance." After the inspection, Theranos announced that it would voluntarily suspend its tests apart from the FDA-approved herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) test.
In October 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that Theranos was using traditional blood testing machines, such as Siemens, to run its tests and that the company's Edison machines might provide inaccurate results. Theranos claimed that the allegations were "factually and scientifically erroneous and grounded in baseless assertions by inexperienced and disgruntled former employees and industry incumbents." Walgreens suspended plans to expand blood-testing centres in their stores following the report. At that time, the Cleveland Clinic announced that it would work to verify Theranos technology.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported issues with the company's Scottsdale lab meeting regulations in October 2015. In January 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent a letter to Theranos based on an inspection of its Newark, California lab in the fall of 2015, reporting that the facility didn't "comply with certificate requirements and performance standards" and caused an "immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety" due to a test to determine the correct dose of the blood-thinning drug warfarin. In March 2016, CMS regulators announced plans to enact sanctions that included suspending Holmes and Balwani from owning or operating a lab for two years and that they would revoke the lab's license. The company didn't receive the sanctions until July. Walgreens and Capital BlueCross announced a suspension of Theranos blood tests from the Newark lab. In May 2016, Theranos announced that it had voided two years of results from its Edison device. The company announced that about 1 percent of test results had been voided or corrected from its proprietary machines in June 2016.
Theranos is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly misleading investors and government officials about its technology. The case is considered "extremely unusual" by a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Justice Department. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce requested information on what Theranos was doing to correct its testing inaccuracies and adherence to federal guidelines in June 2016.
In July 2016, Theranos announced that the CMS had revoked its CLIA certificate as well as sanctions prohibiting its owners and operators from owning or operating a lab for two years, suspension of approval to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments, and a civil monetary penalty. The company discontinued testing at its Newark location while attempting to resolve the issues. Theranos announced plans to appeal the decision by regulators to revoke its licence to operate a lab in California and additional sanctions. The company withdrew its request for emergency clearance of a Zika virus blood test after a lack of essential safeguards throughout the testing process was found by federal inspectors in August 2016. Theranos announced that it would close its laboratory operations, wellness centres and lay off about 40 percent of its work force to work on miniature medical testing machines in October 2016.