If I could ask a very politically incorrect question?

There’s a central dictum in engineering, in medicine, in life, at which Theranos, the controversial blood test company, has constantly failed. “In God we trust,” the mid-century statistician William Edward Deming quipped. “All others bring data.”

Now, once again, Theranos does not have data to bring. But researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai have done their own analysis of Theranos’ tests, which replace needle jabs with finger pricks. They have found them wanting.

At stake is the fortune of Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’ 32-year-old founder and the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire. Forbes values it at $3.6 billion based on her 50% in Theranos and on private investments others have made in her company. Also at stake is her self-stated mission to transform the business of blood-testing, which she says lacks transparency and too often does not put patients first. Theranos’ tests, which replace stabbing needles with tiny finger pricks and return results more quickly, are her path to changing the world.

How much of this is due to her being a cutie? In a male dominated tech world where cuties are in short supply and the nerds aren’t all that well equipped to deal with cuties?

Yes, most un-PC question, but one worth asking perhaps?

17 thoughts on “If I could ask a very politically incorrect question?”

  1. Do the tests work or not?

    And that question needs a VERY careful answer because our medical buddies aren’t above lying-by-crap-experiment if the cash or the ego-trip is right. Such as the Pharma paid for experiments telling us that vitamins are a) Utterly ineffective or b) dangerous or c) both.

  2. What’s the difference between “stabbing needle” and “finger prick”? I’ve used a diabetic blood test thingy and as far as I was concerned it was just a finger prick. click squeeze dab dab wave stick in slot beep.

  3. I doubt it’s relevant. The VCs of Silicon Valley wouldn’t have backed her idea if it was without merit. If anything, being an attractive female would make them more suspiscious and they’d have cross-examined her ideas.

  4. Medicine (including diagnositics) is female-dominated at every level. So we can discount Tim’s hypothesis.

    As for the underlying issue – “smaller sample delivers greater variance shock”.

  5. @jgh, Theranos claim to do tests for cholesterol and various other gubbins that traditionally requires millilitre (order of magnitude) quantities of venous blood. Can’t get that from a finger prick.

  6. Venepuncture requires skilled people, fingerpricks not: so a lot of wishful thinking behind backing Theranos.

  7. Unlikely. That’s some frightfully expensive potential pussy. You pay £500/hr, you get better, and a dead cert.

    I did hear that Walgreen’s/Boots are involved and having dealt with them on a project bid, they’re assclowns.

  8. Actually the due diligence dine by VC and Walgreen in this case was almost none existent. They deserved all of the headache when this goes to hell.

  9. I can provide recent experience of finger-prick vs venous blood sample from a visit to a UK blood donor centre two weeks ago.

    Finger-prick: Iron level 214 – too high.

    Action: test venous sample

    Venous sample: Iron level 203

    Comment from medical staff member – finger-prick sample provides a rough guide which is adequate if +/- 10% within limit (iirc 130-185). If >10% venous sample required for accurate result.


  10. 1. I see no evidence for this assertion “she’s a hottie”, ergo the “since she’s a hottie, has that blinded some downstair-thinking males?” question is pretty much irrelevant. And in biotech, there are plenty of women about, so it isn’t like they’ll never have seen a female entrepreneur before.

    2. Besides, you’re generally talking about very rich males anyways, who generally have access to a higher standard of hottie than your typical techie man, which raises the bar somewhat.

    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theranos is written as if it put people off investing in the company… surprised corporate PR haven’t tried “cleaning it up”. Methinks somebody or somebodies are set up for a fall here.

  11. Bloke not in Cymru

    having been a Guinea pig for a group doing their blood sampling course (10 venous samples taken in 2 hours) I can affirm there’s a hell of difference between that and a finger prick.

  12. So Much For Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “Medicine (including diagnositics) is female-dominated at every level. So we can discount Tim’s hypothesis.”

    Well that does explain a lot. However it doesn’t mean we can discount TW’s hypothesis as the people putting up the money are not doctors but Venture Capitalists. From Silicon Valley. Neither is female-dominated or anything close.

    NotherAnon – “2. Besides, you’re generally talking about very rich males anyways, who generally have access to a higher standard of hottie than your typical techie man, which raises the bar somewhat.”

    You would think. You would think if you were a billionaire you would have an underground lair with hot and cold babes on tap. But it doesn’t seem to be the case. Some Silicon Valley billionaires do seem to go for the hotties – Larry Ellison is said to get a discount on Jags because he buys in bulk. But it may just be a rumour and even if it is not, it is very rare behaviour. Bill Gates married a frankly plain woman. Ellison himself married a romance novelist. I kind of admire the Facebook guy for marrying his college sweetheart even if she is a rather chubby girl. She is probably the hottest of the dot com billionaire wives.

    Rupert Murdoch could have married anyone he likes. He opted for an over-the-hill woman with few assets well past her prime. He is an idiot and his children will pay the price. The only rich men who consistently marry pretty girls are footballers.

  13. “Medicine (including diagnositics) is female-dominated at every level.”

    Yes, its (one of the) reasons that the NHS is such a basket case.

  14. Elizabeth Jones is held up as the poster girl though for girls in STEM.

    It would be awfully ironic if her company goes splat.

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