Theranos CEO Set to Host Hillary Clinton Fundraiser
March 16, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
PALO ALTO, Calif. – Elizabeth Holmes, the billionaire founder and chief executive officer of embattled Theranos will host a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on March 21—a move that some have suggested strikes a tone the company is more concerned about political connections rather than addressing concerns over the efficacy of its blood testing technology.
CBS News reported Holmes’s fundraiser will include a $2,700 "host reception" with Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the candidate and former President Bill Clinton. While hosting a fundraiser may not be unusual or controversial for the head of a $9 billion company, the timing may be of optical concern for the company. Robert M. Wachter, interim chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Stat News that the fundraiser gives people an idea the company is “focused more on its political relationships than on its core business.” He added that the political activity has “created a hype that far exceeds the true value of the company’s products.”
But not everyone thinks the fundraiser is a negative. Henry Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School and a Clinton supporter, also told State News that the Clinton campaign allowing her to host the fundraiser presents the idea that the issues at Theranos are “passing clouds.”
Clinton is not the first political figure Holmes and Theranos have courted. Marine Gen. James Mattis is a member of Theranos’ board of governors. While at the Department of Defense, Mattis was allegedly sought out by Holmes to help with some concerns about Theranos’ blood testing products raised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Theranos said the Department of Defense was interested in adapting the company’s blood tests for battlefield use in a pilot program that would not have required FDA approval.
Other noted political figures associated with Theranos leadership include Henry Kissenger and George Schultz. Once members of the board of directors, Kissenger and Schultz will now serve on a “board of counselors” to provide advice to Theranos’ board.
For the past six or so months, Theranos has been under fire for the efficacy of its blood testing products as well as conditions at a Newark, Calif. lab, raised after an inspection by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (USMMS). The USMMS said the company’s hematology practices at that site “posed immediate jeopardy to the health and safety” of patients. There were also concerns Theranos sent results of blood tests back to 81 people taking blood thinners for a test called PT/INR, a blood test that measures how long it takes blood to clot. Accuracy is crucial for blood thinner testing so doctors will be able to appropriately adjust dosages for patients. Business Insider, citing the Wall Street Journal, said laboratories use a deviation rule for testing blood thinners due to the trickiness of accuracy, but the Theranos results were outside those parameters.