I have posted a number of notes about Theranos (see, for example: Finally, Some Important New Details about the Theranos Business Model). This has one of my most commonly viewed notes so there is a lot of interest in the company. A lot of money is also riding on Theranos' so web sites such a Forbes are writing complex pieces about its business model and the microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip technology that is said to be the foundation of the business (see: Scientists are skeptical about the secret blood test that has made Elizabeth Holmes a billionaire). Here's a quote from this latter article to give you a sense of the amount of money involved:
When Holmes landed on the Forbes billionaire list in 2014, Theranos had raised $400 million, and the company had a valuation of $9 billion. Holmes owns about half of Theranos, with her worth estimated at more than $4.5 billion.
I recently posted a note about how the Cleveland Clinic is working to help validate the Theranos technology (see: Cleveland Clinic Develops Business Partnership with Theranos). Here's a quote from this note:
In terms of its announced relationship with Theranos, the Clinic now positions itself once more as an innovative organization that is embracing new technology that could potentially lower the cost of care. If it ends up validating the Theranos technology, it places itself in a position to deploy it early in its hospitals. It will also be able to provide esoteric testing to Theranos as it expands its presence in the myriad Walgreens stores. If it finds the Theranos technology inadequate, even if it withdraws from the relationship quietly, it will gain favor in the eyes of the Theranos critics.
I have given more thought to the new relationship between Theranos and the Cleveland Clinic and particularly about the lab professionals in pathology who have probably been tasked with the assessment of the Theranos testing process. The task of green-lighting its science and technology is extremely complex and involves an understanding of issues such as test quality control, test validation, and the differences between a venipuncture and finger-stick specimen collected in a microtainer. I would guess that the number of people in the Cleveland Clinic organization qualified to render such a serious opinion in this high-stakes game of poker is probably less than five and probably closer to two or three.
I am going to hazard a guess that Cleveland Clinic may have some sort of investment in Theranos. At the very least and by its public disclosure of its relationship with the company, it has a very strong interest in a positive assessment of the company's technology. So how much money is riding on the outcome of this assessment by a very small group of lab professionals? I would guess we are talking about tens of millions of dollars and probably much more than that. Talk about C-suite pressure for a positive result. Also what are the consequences of an assessment that proves to be erroneous at some later time as more people get a closer look at the technology?