Theranos, a biotech startup lauded for its innovative blood-testing technology and high-profile founder, is firing back after a report in The Wall Street Journal raised questions about the efficacy of the company's products.
Citing former employees at Theranos, along with emails, the paper said some workers "were leery" about the accuracy of the company's flagship laboratory instrument, dubbed Edison, for drawing and analyzing people's blood. As a result, only a small fraction of the 240 tests Theranos offers for diagnosing a range of medical conditions are conducted using the device, with the company doing the "vast majority" of blood testing using traditional clinical equipment, the paper said.
The Journal also said a Theranos employee filed a complaint with regulators claiming the company had failed to report test results that raised concerns about the precision of Edison.
Theranos on Thursday defended the quality of its products and services, saying its blood tests have worked for "tens of thousands of satisfied customers through millions of tests" and passed muster with regulators.
"Today's Wall Street Journal story about Theranos is factually and scientifically erroneous and grounded in baseless assertions by inexperienced and disgruntled former employees and industry incumbents," the company said in a statement.
Entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, sometimes called the world's youngest self-made female billionaire, formed Palo Alto, Calif.-based Theranos in 2003. The company's technology lets users give blood with the prick of a finger, rather than with a conventional needle inserted into a patient's arm.
"We've created these little tiny tubes, which we call the 'nanotainers,' which are designed to replace the big, traditional tubes that come from your arm, and instead allow for all the testing to be done from a tiny drop from a finger," Holmes told CBS This Morning earlier this year.
Investors have poured more than $400 million into Theranos, valuing it at nearly $10 billion and making it one of the hottest startups in the world. Moving to commercialize its technology, the company is working with drugstore chain Walgreens (WBA) to build thousands of centers around the U.S. that offer a menu of low-cost blood tests to consumers.
Holmes took to social media to dispute the Journal's claims, tweeting, "Unclear why anonymous anecdotes outweigh scalable statistics" and linking to Theranos' statement.
"The sources relied on in the article today were never in a position to understand Theranos' technology and know nothing about the processes currently employed by the company," the company said. "We are disappointed that, in an effort to make its story more dramatic, this reporter relied only on the views of four 'anonymous' disgruntled former employees, competitors and their allies, instead of reaching out to many of the scientific, health care and business leaders who have actually seen, tested, used and examined our breakthrough technologies."