Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of $10 billion blood-testing company Theranos, has relied on her connections to at least one high-level military official to help deal with questions about the use of her company’s theoretically revolutionary blood tests, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post.
The startup has been under fire recently after questions were raised about the accuracy of their internally-developed lab tests.
Observers have also long wondered why the company has a board of directors full of ex-military and political officials, instead of biotech and medical experts, something Theranos is now reportedly working to correct.
According to the latest report in the Post, « an official evaluating Theranos’ signature blood-testing technology for the Department of Defense sounded the alarm in 2012 and launched a formal inquiry with the Food and Drug Administration about the company’s intent to distribute its tests without FDA clearance. »
That prompted Holmes to reach out to four-star general James Mattis, whom she had originally met at a Marine Memorial event in 2011, according to information provided to the Post by Theranos. Mattis wanted to test the company’s technology in the field, the Post reported, which prompted questions by an unnamed military official.
According to the emails cited by the Post, Holmes described the reviewer’s concerns as « blatantly false information » and wrote Mattis to say: « I would very much appreciate your help in getting this information corrected with the regulatory agencies. »
After retiring from the Marine Corps, Mattis joined Theranos’ board of directors.
These emails don’t tell us anything conclusive about how good or bad Theranos’ tests are, and could simply highlight the questions that come up in any regulatory process.
But they do provide evidence that Theranos has pursued work with the US military, something that has only been hinted at in the past. (Holmes « would not discuss the company’s arrangements » with the military, Ken Auletta wrote in the New Yorker in 2014.) They also help demonstrate that there are deep connections between Theranos and certain high level political and military officials — and that Holmes is willing to make use of them.
We’ve reached out to Theranos for comment and will update this story if we hear back.
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