The health technology company Theranos once received enthusiastic media coverage for its promises of radical innovation in clinical laboratory testing and its eye-catching valuation of $9 billion. Now the company can’t seem to stop the unending stream of bad news. In addition to Theranos’ previous troubles (discussed here and here), the company is now under investigation by both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. Recently, Sunny Balwani, the company’s president and chief operating officer, departed Theranos.
Many of Theranos’ problems ultimately reflect systemic issues within medical technology innovation. Multiple articles have begun to discuss Theranos as a cautionary tale for innovators and investors. With the advantages of hindsight, a clear theme emerges from the morass Theranos finds itself in: the company’s lack of transparency about its science is at the root of many of its problems. Theranos’ refusal to allow scrutiny about its science and claims prevented effective oversight and earlier checks on the company’s grandiose claims. This negatively impacted the company’s relationships with regulators, its own board, and its business partners, and has dramatically undermined the company’s claims.