THAT STRANGE THERANOS STORY, AND ITS OPTICAL PATENTS

UPDATE: THAT STRANGE THERANOS STORY, AND ITS OPTICAL PATENTS

September 11, 2019 By Joseph P. Farrell

During last week's News and Views from the Nefarium (Sept. 5, 2019), I had to resist temptation to talk about the "easy" story (BREXIT), to talk about a story that had caught my eyes thanks to an astute reader of this website who brought it to my attention. The story was one of those short and, at a surface level, "dull" science pieces about the latest discovery. But when I read it, I immediately thought about its possible connection to another story. What caught my attention was that scientists have observed a new kind of light wave that emerges in the boundary conditions when light traveling through crystals transitions into a very different medium, say, a liquid, producing a kind of spectroscopic response. The article went on to mention that the discovery had all sorts of potential applications, including in the medical and biotech fields.

That little statement gave me pause, and made me immediately think of the whole saga of Elizabeth Holmes and her once much-vaunted multi-billion-dollar start-up Silicon Valley company sensation, Theranos. For many years Ms. Holmes was the darling of the talk shows and magazines: a smart, articulate, attractive, young and determined business woman with a bright idea. Her bright idea, essentially, was to place small portable blood testing units - about the size of a desktop computer - in homes and businesses, that would be able to test your blood for a multitude of diseases and potential health issues, all from just a couple drops of blood, and then be able to deliver the results right there and then. No big syringes full of blood to be sent off to distant laboratories for analysis with several days' waiting time, and more hours in the lobby of perpetually-late-to-their-appointments doctors, who bill you for their time, but have no regard for your time. All that: gone. And with just a couple small drops of blood and a portable "home testing unit." Say what one will about Ms. Holmes, she at least had the guts to dream big.

When I first learned about this story from former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Catherine Austin Fitts, I was intrigued, and began to research the story just for my own personal interest, even buying and reading Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou's book about the story, Bad Blood, the only book-length study of the subject, and based on Carreyrou's serialized articles for the newspaper. What intrigued me about the story, and Ms. Holmes' claims, was the sheer impossibility of doing what she claimed Theranos would be able to do based on ordinary laboratory chemical (or even ordinary spectroscopic) methods. Indeed, as I pointed out in the Sept. 5th News and Views, and according to Carreyrou, attempts to get Theranos' technology to peer review were thwarted by Holmes and the senior management at Theranos. Attempts to get Theranos to disclose its technology led to vague statements. Effectively, it was a black box that no one else was permitted to peer inside and see what made it work.

But the story disturbed me, and disturbs me still, because in the final analysis we're being asked to believe that Holmes and Theranos were essentially and totally fraudulent. Don't get me wrong; massive fraud can and has been committed and run for years before anyone is the wiser, think only of Bernie Madoff (or the federal budget for that matter). But on something like this, there had to have been something genuine at the core, otherwise Theranos and Ms. Holmes would not have been able to attract the sorts of people they attracted to her board, people like George Schultz, or Riley Bechtel, or General James Mattis. We'll get back to my high octane speculation of the day on that score shortly. But for the moment, my reasoning was that for Ms. Holmes to be able to claim to do what she wanted to do, some sort of very different and advanced optical technology and spectroscopy would have to be involved. Hence, my interest in the story about the discovery of a new form of light wave emerging from crystals at the boundary with another medium, a liquid medium, like blood, and that story's own statement that it had great potential for the medical and biotech industries, like testing. As I mused in my News and Views commentary that day, perhaps we're looking at part of the real story behind Theranos being let out into the public eye.

All this rambling "around Harvey's Barn" (as my mother used to say) has been for a purpose, for it brings us to today's story, shared by a regular reader, G.L.R., who had very sharp eyes:

Patents Assigned to Theranos, Inc.

When scrolling through this list of Theranos patents, one comes across Patent number 9835548, the abstract of which reads as follows The full patent text is  here: Theranos Patent 9835548):

Patent number: 9835548
Abstract: The devices and systems disclosed herein provide multiple optical capabilities in a single device or system. Methods for using these devices and systems are provided. These devices and systems are configurable for operation in each of a spectroscopy mode, a fluorescence mode, and a luminescence mode, and are capable of performing spectroscopic, fluorescence, and luminescence observations, measurements, and analyzes when operated in the corresponding spectroscopy mode, fluorescence mode, or luminescence mode. These devices and systems include mirror dispersion elements having multiple faces including an optical dispersion element on one face (e.g., a diffraction grating or a prism) and a reflective element on another face (e.g., a mirror). These multiple capabilities eliminate the need to move or load a sample in multiple devices when subjecting a sample to multiple analyzes, and thus provide greater accuracy, precision, and speed while reducing complexity and cost of sample analysis.
Type: Grant
Filed: May 20, 2016
Date of Patent: December 5, 2017 (Italicized and boldface emphases added)
Now, I don't know about you, but I think this is a little more than coincidental; prisms equal crystals of some sort, and that was the subject of the new form of light wave at boundary conditions where light is traveling through a crystal and then transitions into a different medium. Indeed, like all patents, there is an extensive reference list at the end of the patent to the "prior art", and one might indeed add the story I talked about in my Sept 5th, 2019 News and Views to that list.
So where's the high octane speculation here? For starters, Elizabeth Holmes, as I mentioned in the News and Views, is under indictment for fraud. Indeed, no one can come away from reading Carreyrou's book without the distinct impression that there not only was a massive amount of that going on, but that the delaying and stalling tactics of Theranos simply ran out of time; or to put it much differently, Theranos promised to deliver on something within a certain time frame, and was unable to do so, and Walgreen's corporation pulled out of its marketing arrangement with Theranos. But if nothing else, this patent indicates that my initial hunch about how Ms. Holmes intended to deliver on her promises, and Theranos' own research directions, were more or less aligned, whatever Ms. Holmes' alleged character faults may or may not be. One gets the sense that being the bright individual she clearly is, she researched the "prior art" and came up with her bright idea.
So why the effort, after the list of luminaries on the Theranos board, to take her and her company down? I suspect there might be two, possibly three, explanations here. The first is, given the defense presence on the Theranos board, one might be dealing with a corporate front designed to roll out a new technology. The problem was, they selected the wrong spokesman - Holmes - to bring it out. They needed, according to the adage, a better "team player" and someone "more stable." The second is that "optical diagnosis and testing" implies also electromagnetic - not pharmaceutical - means of therapy; and the diagnostic technology itself would certainly put a crimp in several medical laboratories' and physicians' bottom line. Indeed, anyone who has investigated the various claims to electromagnetic medicine (so to speak) will encounter the effort over the past few decades, going all the way back to Dr. Royal Raymond Rife, to shut down, ostracize, and even imprison and ruin any one making such claims. Big Pharma, like Big Agra, has long and powerful arms. The third possibility is, to me, the most intriguing. And also the most speculative. Perhaps Ms. Holmes, with her statements to deliver the technology in functioning form years ago, was acting under orders from more hidden masters, who either pulled the plug on her ambitious schedule, or via that same ambitious schedule set her up to take a fall, once they had determined they needed a different face for the roll out, or once they bowed to pressure from elsewhere in the multi-billion-dollar health care field, like Big Pharma..
In any case, I suspect there is still much more to the Theranos story, and that we're just getting started.
See you on the flip side...