Creative Disruption? She's 29 and Set to Reboot Lab Medicine

Elizabeth Holmes plans to revolutionize testing by using tiny blood draws and offering near-instantaneous results

; Elizabeth Holmes


November 18, 2013

In This Article

Theranos Wellness Centers

Dr. Topol: Fantastic. There are just so many innovative aspects to this; the blueprints have been so extensive. The pharmacists are playing an active role. You are training them to collect these nanotainers[4] of blood. Is that right?

Ms. Holmes: We are. Our wellness centers are next to the pharmacy inside of these retail locations. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge in the pharmacist, and so we have trained and certified phlebotomists or other appropriately state-certified personnel. But we are also leveraging the expertise of the pharmacist in being able to provide a care framework for the patients who come in to do their tests. And that is something that we think is a wonderful application of the talent that exists in these pharmacies with respect to being able to have that level of oversight and care.

Dr. Topol: I share your view that there is a lot of talent out there, and we haven't really harnessed it yet.

Ms. Holmes: Yes.

Dr. Topol: And you have about 1000 different tests that you are either gearing up for or are going to be offering?

Ms. Holmes: We do. We have announced the first set on our Website, and we are going to be systematically rolling them out.[5]

Making an Impact

Dr. Topol: That is amazing.

So now you've got this thing going, and you're going to have it in many states soon and, before you know it, thousands of drugstores. When will you feel like you've really made an impact here? The model obviously is totally transformative. You've Schumpetered[6] laboratory medicine. It's radical.

What is the end goal here -- that most laboratory testing is rebooted through this new system, or is it just another pathway? What do you think will be your metric of success?

Ms. Holmes: Well, there are two. One is, just in the few weeks since the service has become accessible to patients, the number of emails, phone calls, and letters we've gotten from parents who have gone through an unbelievable amount of pain trying to take care of little kids, from whom they couldn't get enough of a sample to be able to get the right information for the physician to take care of them. They talk in great detail about the pain of what it's like to watch a child go through that, and how we've been able to help change that and make that better. That's at the core of why we did this.

The other thing is a long-term goal of being able to use this infrastructure to help physicians have access to actionable information at the time it matters, so that early detection becomes a reality. And there are ways in which we are beginning to help contribute to that by virtue of the fact that we can take a tiny sample and do not need dedicated tubes of blood for each type of test that we run.

We can, on a given sample, automatically run to other assay methodologies that traditionally would require a separate draw, which means that if something is out of range, we can, on the same sample, run tests that a physician would like to have ordered to better figure out why it's out of range. For example, in the morning a patient could come to a wellness center and we could draw a sample. The physician could say on their requisition that if this is out of range, automatically run this other test. And that afternoon, when the physician sees the patient, they have all of that information.

Dr. Topol: That is a much more intelligent way to process this information, so that you don't have to go back for yet another test or anything. And that's not being done today in many cases, so that's great.

Ms. Holmes: Right, exactly.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.