Medical testing startup Theranos has agreed to publish data that it says will validate the accuracy of its blood tests after they were called into question by a Wall Street Journal article published last week. Elizabeth Holmes, the billionaire CEO of the rapidly growing company, confirmed that Theranos would make the information public in a bid to quell attacks claiming the company wasn't using its own technology in its tests. "Data is a powerful thing because it speaks for itself," she said, speaking at a conference sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic on Monday night. Holmes did not say when or where her company would actually make the information public.
Theranos said its technology was too sensitive to test
The decision to present data publicly is an about-face for Theranos, which has thus far offered almost no details about its tests for peer review, while also making big claims about the potential of its technology. Speaking to The New York Times last week, Holmes said her company was focusing on submitting data to the FDA rather than making its data public. Scientists were quick to point out the flaw in Holmes' argument — that submission to the FDA does not preclude publishing data for peer review, and that many other companies put their trial results out either before, or as they submit to the FDA.
Speaking at the conference, Holmes said Theranos "was never against" peer review, but that the FDA decision summaries presenting the data as submitted would be a more transparent model. "But that's okay," she said, "we can publish our data, so we're doing that."
In a 6,000-word rebuttal to The Wall Street Journal's article, Theranos argued that its Edison technology — which claims to be able to identify health issues from a small amount of blood drawn from a finger — was simply too sensitive to be tested in a normal way. In the meantime, as the company defends its technology and its practices, its most important partner — drug store chain Walgreens, which features "wellness centers" created with Theranos in 41 stores — said it would not expand its joint program until it understood "the truth."
Partner Walgreens has distanced itself from the medical testing startup
Drug giants Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline also distanced themselves from Theranos yesterday. It has been reported that the startup earned a chunk of its income from deals with both companies for their use of Theranos tech in their tests, but representatives from both companies denied the links. GSK said it had no records of having done business with Theranos, while Pfizer said it had worked with the startup, but only on "very limited historical exploratory work" on a handful of pilot projects.
Theranos could argue that it has traded peer review for speed of development and the maintenance of trade secrets, but by finally presenting evidence in public, Theranos could go some way toward earning back the consumer confidence it has lost over the past week. That is, of course, if its tests work as advertised.