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Why was Theranos so believable? Medicine needs to look in the mirror

C C Offline

EXCERPT: I watched the recent “60 Minutes” report on the rise and fall of Theranos, the test-everything-with-a-fingerstick company that recently flamed out, costing numerous high-profile investors north of $700 million. The report laid out the standard narrative about Theranos, including healthy doses of deception and greed, an absence of various sorts of oversight, and too much Silicon Valley mythology.

To get some perspective on what happened [...] I re-read a December 2014 article in the New Yorker on Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. What struck me as I compared [...] is one simple question that seems to have been missed in the ashes: Why was the Theranos pitch so believable in the first place?

[...] As I further contemplated the believability question, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Theranos managed to thrive for as long as it did because it existed in a biomedical innovation ecosystem that is full of hype. In other words, in a world full of stories and claims about the next big transformation in medicine, did the claims made by Theranos stand out as that outrageous, unbelievable, or in need of extra scrutiny? Not when you measure it by a few examples of standout hype I have collected over the years.

[...] So, why was the story of Theranos so believable in the first place? In addition to the specific mix of greed, bad corporate governance, and too much “next” Steve Jobs, Theranos thrived in a biomedical innovation world that has become prisoner to a seemingly endless supply of hype. That so many high-profile individuals and institutions fed and continue to feed the hype makes me think it is just a matter of time until we see the arrival of Theranos 2.0.

Magical Realist Offline
I saw that 60 minutes segment. I think the narrative of the charismatic entrepeneur making good that feeds the whole tech industry dominated peoples minds. Holmes was beautiful and intelligent and bold and everybody so wanted it to be true. Her magic box that runs all tests on blood. A new multi-billion dollar industry. People weren't used to charlatans taking them for a ride. If Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg and Elon Musk why not Elizabeth Holmes? The moral here is don't jump on the much touted bandwagon just because everyone else is. Do your own homework.

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