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Was Theranos always destined to fail?


We can sit around and talk about how toxic the culture was at Theranos and the crazy tales of intimidation. They certainly matter and were wrong.

But all of these problems stem from an insanely ambitious idea. It’s not like nobody had ever considered the prospect of doing hundreds of tests with a drop of blood. I mean, duh. That would be amazing.

Most blood tests are a bunch of tests rolled into one thing. And each of those tests has a different process for it to work, with chemicals being extracted from the blood in a very specific way. If you tried to test for one thing with all the blood, it would screw up the results for another test.

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It’s hard to overstate just how monumental the technical challenge was for Holmes and her team. They were trying to buy themselves time to make the technology work but they never stood a chance.

Most Nobel Prize winners in the medical field are well into their 60s and up. It’s not uncommon for them to have a Medical Degree AND a Ph.D. There are few fields with more rigorous scrutiny around research than medicine. And rightfully so—we need wet-blanket, egotistical, nitpicky researchers to pick apart these treatments before they go public. That’s how you achieve high-quality products.

So that is why people in the medical field were immediately skeptical of a young woman with one year of college and no formal research publications.

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And perhaps that was the seductive appeal she had with the media. That, and the fact that she was young and attractive-ish.

Also, I’m obsessed with that falsetto voice she does. It’s so bizarre and fascinating. My girlfriend and I are playing a fun game where she is working on impersonating Holmes. If you’d like to try the impression, ladies, here is your script. Good luck:

This is what happens when you work to change things.

First, they think you’re crazy, then they fight you, and then all of the sudden you change the world.”

But yes, they were always doomed to fail. One drop of blood can do around 30 tests individually. But one drop to do a thousand tests at once? Many of which require a full vial to be done individually?

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Cmon. That’s like announcing you have invented a time travel machine and then yelling at your techs behind the curtains for not figuring it out fast enough.