My big scientific blunder…
I wanted to believe something good about Theranos., the company that raised a few hundred million dollars from premiere investors of silicon valley.
I wanted to believe that humanity had found its next great Landsteiner. It turns out that my perception of the problem in blood diagnostics was completely wrong.
Turns out, I should have trusted my skillset and skepticism. I’ll be adding more oddities/facts/challenging assumptions here in this list over the next few weeks.
Problems with Theranos:(Running List)
- Nothing Novel in Microfluidics: Their patents are all re-writes of juvenile microfluidics technologies that are about 30 years old. Nothing new to see here.
- Lots of fog in a nanotainer of blood. Interstitial fluid which obfuscates blood testing is impossible to avoid. We’re talking an extreme signal to noise ratio at a small volume.
- PCR Realities. Polymerase Chain Reaction(PCR) is really tough to do on small blood volumes. If we were in subsaharan Africa, you might run it on less than 20 uL of blood which is an order of magnitude more than you’d collect with Theranos’s methodology.
- Incidentalomas are scary. Why in god’s name would you want to run 200+ blood tests. That’s actually pure lunacy. Incidentaloma is a scary thing and occurs easily.
- Finger Pricks versus Needles. Finger pricks often hurt more.