Embattled Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes' Next Bet: Project Edison

Embattled Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes' Next Bet: Project Edison’ August 1, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

PALO ALTO, Calif. – Today marks a new chapter for Theranos, the beleaguered blood-testing company that has faced mountains of scrutiny over the efficacy of its testing and the wall of secrecy with which it surrounds itself.

But today is a beginning as Elizabeth Holmes, company founder and chief executive officer, will make a formal scientific presentation at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC)'s annual conference. During the conference Holmes could introduce the world to what she believes could be the saving grace of her company, the portable lab. Last week Holmes provided CNN with unfettered access to her labs and revealed the miniature lab project, dubbed Edison, that is expected to be able to run a multitude of tests using miniaturized laboratory robotics, CNN said.

The new technology is about the size of a placemat and could be easily used in an office setting, a field laboratory or even an individual home. Holmes expects the lab to be able to run multiple diagnostic tests, such as checking the count of red blood cells or determine if a disease is present in the body, such as HIV, Holmes told KTVZ. The portable lab falls in line with Holmes’ long-held belief in the ease of access to medical lab facilities.

The question remaining to be seen is will it work. Theranos has had some issues with its technology and lab practices before— issues that have resulted in lawsuits, Holmes’ two-year ban from the blood-testing industry, the criminal probe and congressional investigation of her company and questions surrounding the efficacy of Theranos’ products.

David Koch, a past president of the AACC and a professor of pathology at Emory University told CNN that the portable lab idea is intriguing, but said there are some concerns, particularly if untrained medical people have access to the results and make medical decisions based off the results. Such decisions could be dangerous. Theranos is already facing trouble after it invalidated two-years’ worth of blood-testing data from a California laboratory. Several people who used the blood-testing lab based medical decisions off of the results they were given. That has caused lawsuits, a Congressional inquiry and Holmes’ banning.

Holmes’ presentation has already caused some divisiveness due to the troubles the company has faced over the past year. Holmes’ presentation and participation has proven to be so controversial that the AACC has included a disclaimer with the announcement: “Holmes’s appearance does not reflect an endorsement of Theranos or its technology by AACC, and Theranos has not provided any financial contribution to AACC in exchange for the invitation to speak, nor has it provided any sponsorship monies or other forms of grants to AACC,” StatNews reported.

All eyes will be on Holmes and her presentation today. But, given the recent history of the company, the portable lab will be heavily scrutinized as the project moves forward.

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