THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ABOUT THERANOS FINALLY ASKED
Readers of this website who go back a few years know of my fascination with the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her high-tech medical start-up Theranos. For those who do not know the story, a brief review is in order. Holmes was a mere 19 years old, and a drop-out from Stanford University, when she started her medical-diagnostics company Theranos. She quickly amassed an amazing amount of money, and more importantly, an unusual list of people to be investors and members of the board of Theranos, people like former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, Riley Bechtel (of the Bechtel firm), Rupert Murdoch, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, and General "Mad Dog" Mattis. On and on we could go. What attracted all this attention?
Holmes' and Theranos' claim was to be able to run a variety of standard medical tests on a machine about as big as a desktop computer, and to do so on "a drop of blood," i.e., on a minimum of blood, rather than several syringes drawn out over time. In effect, the device was to be a "home diagnostics" unit.
Holmes herself was a not an unattractive women, and quickly became the darling diva of the television talk shows, but the shine soon warn off when the results from her machines and even the concept behind them were challenged, and eventually the firm collapsed, taking Holmes' reputation with it.
But as I've pointed out in several blogs on this website, questions remained. For example, Toshiba a few months after the collapse of Theranos announced its own machine based on similar concepts. I've even noted that some of Theranos' concepts appear to have been mimicked. (For some of those blogs, see: https://gizadeathstar.com/2019/12/theranos-upstaged-by-toshiba/
With this background in mind, on to today's article, shared by E.G. This time, the right questions about the narrative are being asked:
Firstly, it is important to note the first part of the article's review of "the standard narrative" regarding Holmes and Theranos:
But there was a big problem at the core of this venture. Namely, Holmes’ inventions were mostly imaginary, her technology didn’t work, and her mission was based on wishful thinking. So how was she able to build her house of cards with such an impressive façade and make herself into America’s favorite entrepreneur and youngest female “self-made” billionaire? The narrative was that it was down to her supposed brilliance, her story, conviction, charisma, and her disarming personal charm. We’ve been led to believe that those were the weapons she used to persuade some of the most powerful people in the US military and political establishment to become directors of her startup and to convince a group of seasoned investors and experienced business people to back her venture with hundreds of millions of dollars.
That story is hugely implausible, but it is nevertheless being told and retold in the media without much critical analysis or skepticism, only allowing for the possibility that Holmes’s one co-conspirator was her partner and boyfriend Ramesh (Sunny) Balwani.
However, as I have tried to point out in my own blogs linked above, her basic concepts were not implausible, so this part of the critique of the narrative is also a bit suspect, though the questions it raises are central to the saga: why would people such as General Mattis or George Schultz become involved?
The author of the article points out that mere charm or management skills are usually not enough to even make it past the gatekeepers to the sources of investment capital, let alone to people like Sam Nunn, George Schultz, or Riley Bechtel:
The cosmetics alone – the stories, visions, displays of confidence or personal charm – they won’t even get you past the gatekeepers if the stuff behind the façade doesn’t convince. In Elizabeth Holmes’s case, even minimal due diligence should have eliminated her: she set out to revolutionize health care but had no qualifications or experience in medicine and only rudimentary training in biochemistry. In almost all cases, her patents specified design of future solutions but not the functionality. She published no white papers or technical specifications, and could not demonstrate that her supposed inventions even worked. Any specialist in the field of medicine or biochemistry would have easily disqualified her claims and determined that there was no substance to her story.
As the article observes, the standard narrative all too passing strange: how indeed did Holmes get past the gatekeepers, gain entry to personal contact with these big names, and more importantly, why did the big names go along with it?
At this juncture the article relates the story of how Theranos employees Erika Cheung and Schultz's own grandson Tyler Schultz met private over dinner with the former secretary of state to inform him of the massive fraud at Theranos, and that its technology, in spite of public hype and claims to the contrary, did not yet exist. Schultz himself dismissed the assertions, and his response is worth noting:
George Shultz dismissed his grandson and Erika Cheung, saying: “I know Tyler’s very smart, you seem very smart, but the fact of the matter isI’ve brought in a wealth of intelligent people, and they tell me that this device is going to revolutionize health care. And so maybe you should consider doing something else.” Cheung resigned from Theranos the next day after only seven months on the job.
While Theranos continued in operation unhindered, she and Tyler Shultz became targets of very aggressive surveillance and intimidation. Keeping them silent was entrusted to David Boies’ law firm Boies Schiller. Recall, David Boies was also on Theranos board of directors and the fact that he had a hand in pressuring Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung to keep quiet indicates that he too was in the know about Theranos dark secrets. But rather than investigating those secrets, action was directed against Theranos employees and potential whistleblowers. At a later point in time, George Shultz invited Tyler to his house to convince him to keep quiet. On that occasion Tyler indicated that he would consider signing a confidentiality agreement at which his grandfather said, “Good, there are two Theranos lawyers upstairs; can I go get them?” But ultimately his grandson declined to sign the papers.
The question boils down to this:
But the idea that she could continually deceive scores of industry experts and specialists in firms like Walgreens, Safeway, Pfizer, GSK and numerous health care institutions, as well as many high level business executives and investors, that is very difficult to explain. How should we believe that all these people had been hoodwinked by Holmes and that she could keep them all hoodwinked for over 12 years (2003-2016)? (boldface emphasis added)
IN answer to this question, we arrive at the second installment of the article, and what, for me, has always been the real implication of the Theranos story, and finally someone has stated and argued the case: Holmes was the designated "public face" (and patsy, should something go wrong), and the public narrative is exactly that, a narrative.
It is far more likely that Holmes was recruited to be the front-woman of Theranos while the project’s real power brokers remained behind the stage. Her real qualifications were her youth, unbridled ambition, lack of any scruples about deceiving her own employees, investors and the public, and her willingness to advance her goals over people’s lives. She also had that sense of her family’s greatness which might have enabled her to set aside all legal and ethical considerations in pursuing her grand mission. Another plus would have been her supposed fluency in Mandarin, since future health challenges were expected to come from China.
We also know that an unnamed but influential person twice introduced Holmes to professor Phyllis Gardner. The same person may have also leaned on professor Channing Robertson to admit the unqualified Holmes into his chemistry lab? Furthermore, Holmes was able to skate past the due diligence gatekeepers at Lucas Ventures Group and land straight into Don Lucas Sr’s office thanks to an introduction from some unnamed friend of her father’s.
The article points out that George Schultz's reaction to his own grandson's attempt to point out the fraud is that of a person more concerned to protect the project itself than his own reputation. And this becomes but the most egregious example of a whole host of inconsistencies and questions. Consider the following detail, and let the ramifications sink in:
Another revealing moment was an interview between Holmes and Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittran. He jokingly mentioned that the only person missing from her board of directors was the Pope, and then asked: “How did that happen? Was it, I’m just going to write to Henry Kissinger, these kind of caliber of people who are in the public eye, but probably not so easy to ring up?” Holmes replied that, “In our case, those were people whom I had the privilege of getting to know and in many cases working with for in some cases a couple of years before we asked them to join the board.”
I don’t know how or when Holmes met Shultz, Kissinger, Mattis, Bechtel, Roughead, Perry, Boies, or Nunn. But she told us that she had been working with many of them for years before they joined Theranos as directors. OK then, what exactly were they “working” on? Most of these people were deeply rooted in the military and foreign policy establishments and none of them had anything to do with medicine, biochemistry or health care. Yet for some reason, they all decided to pool their considerable influence and raise a huge amount of capital in order to “democratize diagnostics” and revolutionize health care? They also thought the best way to do that was to entrust it to a 19-year old with no qualifications in any of the relevant domains? This all brings us to a really important question: why?
There is a related issue as the article also points out: why would these big name investors back a start-up, rather than going to established names in medical testing like Abbot or Siemens? Why recruit someone with no experience or qualifications like Holmes? Here the article, in my opinion, begins to run into trouble, for the author opines that this is probably what the investors did do, and they ran into a problem:
For some reason however, that route did not work for them and we can venture a guess why: probably because the response from the real blood testing experts would have been (or was) that what they were asking for was impossible. That is what professors Dr. Phyllis Gardner and Dr. Darren Saunders had suggested. Indeed, Dr. Gardner did not hesitate to say that Theranos investors were crazy to back such a venture.
In other words, the central feature of the story was and is that the concept behind Theranos was then unworkable. Yet, as I've pointed out in my own blogs on the subject, Toshiba later made similar claims, and the optics behind the Theranos idea seems to be at least in part confirmed by subsequent discoveries. We'll return to this point about the optics in a moment.
The second part of the article concludes with an unusual hypothesis: the Theranos story was not so much about the concept of home test kits as it was about centralized population control:
In a short, 2-minute video titled, “This is how we prevent the next pandemic,” published on YouTube on 27 January 2021, you can hear the world’s chief health officer, comrade Gates explain his rescue plan for when we have the “next pandemic.” “By the next pandemic,” says Mr. Gates, “I believe we can have what I call mega-testing diagnostic platforms. They can be deployed quickly, cost very little, and test 20% of the entire population every week. … To stop future pandemics quickly, we need to be able to spot disease outbreaks as soon as they happen anywhere in the world. And that requires a global alert system. … Stopping the next pandemic will be a big investment.”
So, according to comrade Gates, fighting these next pandemics will require quick, cheap and ultra-versatile platforms that can test 20% of the entire population every week. Doesn’t that sound a lot like what Theranos was trying to build? Indeed, on the occasion of promoting their joint venture with Walgreens in 2013, Elizabeth Holmes explained that, “We have an operational plan that will allow us to become within five miles from every person’s home through Wallgreens that we’ve opened and continue to open nationally.”
The explicit purpose of this infrastructure was to centralize the health care process so that diagnostics, medication and treatment could all come from the same source. Now that kind of a thing could explain our powerbrokers’ excitement about Theranos: it would be a very powerful tool of population control in the hands of those who lusted to wield it.
This agenda could explain why during its first 11 years, Theranos board of directors consisted almost exclusively of deep state actors: high ranking military officers and top foreign policy officials, but no medical doctors or health care experts. It also explains why the power players behind Theranos weren’t bothered about whether the technology actually worked or not: it was not intended as an accurate diagnostics tool (we already had those); it was intended as an information weapon. Unlike the PCR test which has been known and well understood by health care professionals worldwide, Theranos technology would have remained a mystery, hidden behind the veils of patents and protected intellectual property. The public would not be given the opportunity to have the devices examined independently; such checks would certainly be entrusted to reliable, Theranos-friendly inspectors.
In other words, Theranos' technology was designed to be a black box, with proprietary secrets preventing certain aspects from being disclosed to the public, much like the "secret ingredients" in the mRNA injections. The article points out that venture capitalists and deep state actors are still pursuing the basic Theranos idea; think only of the similar claims made some years ago by Toshiba. And here the article concludes with an intriguing observation and a bit of speculation:
So, the information arms race is still very much on and the power players who brought us Theranos haven’t given up on their agenda. This is a war on – and for – our minds. If we heed the warning from Bill Gates, we must expect to see more pandemics; mega-testing diagnostic platforms might spring up in our neighborhoods, and we might be pressured to take those tests regularly and believe the results. The authorities will protect us from the frightful pandemics and tell us exactly what’s expected of us to protect ourselves and others.
This reminded me of something I had written about in the following blog:
What I said there was this:
Well, there may be more to this story, because one of this site's regular readers, T.M., spotted this very intriguing paper:
Notably, this paper appeared in 2009, approximately five years after Holmes founded Theranos. What the abstract says is quite intriguing for our purposes:
Elastic optical scattering, the dominant light interaction process in biological tissues, prevents tissues from being transparent. While scattering may appear stochastic, it is in fact deterministic in nature. We show that, despite experimental imperfections, optical phase conjugation (λ = 532 nm) can force a transmitted light field to retrace its trajectory through a biological target and recover the original light field. For a 0.69 mm thick chicken breast tissue section, we can enhance point source light return by ∼5×103 times and achieve a light transmission enhancement factor of 3.8 within a collection angle of 29°. Additionally, we find that the reconstruction's quality, measured by the width of the reconstructed point source, is independent of tissue thickness (up to 0.69 mm thick). This phenomenon may be used to enhance light transmission through tissue, enable measurement of small tissue movements, and form the basis of new tissue imaging techniques. (Emphasis added)
In other words, as cells move the movement itself distorts the light they emit, but this original signature may be recovered through the phenomenon of phase conjugation. The latter bears a little explanation. Phase conjugation emerged as a major phenomenon of interest from the super-secret work being done in the 1980s during the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars" program, and as we shall see in a moment, emerged in quite a different context in the secret Soviet biophysics research of the 1960s and 1970s. Simply put, as a light wave moves through a medium such as the atmosphere, it undergoes scattering that distorts the original "shape" it had when emitted from its source. Thus, pointing a laser at, say, a missile or an aircraft moving through the atmosphere meant that the cohered beam of laser light would be subject to scattering, and lose much of the energy coming from the source of the emission. A way had to be found to mitigate this effect, and the means was phase conjugation, which (to be very crude about it) took a "picture" of the distortion or scattering effects themselves, and then used that distortion itself as a template to reconfigure the laser beam at the source in the opposite pattern or phase, thus allowing the beam to maintain its coherence and energy over much greater distances. In some cases in the literature, this phase conjugation effect was even called "time reserved waves" because the effect of phase conjugation was to reverse the normal inverse square law of light scattering. Theoretically, the phenomenon meant that energy could be concentrated at the target, since the inverse square law was "reversed."
Thus, in this paper, the claim is to have used the same phenomenon to view the the light emitted from cells. This in itself is very intriguing, because if you've been following the work of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tom Bearden (retired) over the years, you'll recall that the Soviet Union did a great deal of very classified research in biophysics, trying to discover the electromagnetic "templates" of specific diseases in cells, and of healthy "templates" in cells, and then allegedly used those templates to irradiate biological tissue to create, or cure, various diseases including cancer. And there as well, the phenomenon of phase conjugation entered the picture, though as in the above paper, in a biological rather than missile defense context.
Could this phenomenon be coupled to that of the recent discovery of a new kind of light wave emerging in the boundary transition between crystals and liquids that I blogged about in the above-linked blog? My high octane speculative guess is yes, and that those light waves will differ depending on the relative health of the liquid they transition into.
My wild speculation of the day here is this: can this same phenomenon be used to help breach the blood brain barrier? and can it thus be used for a direct physiological manipulation of the brain itself? Is it, in other words, another tool in the arsenal of mind manipulation techniques? I suspect so...
... and I also suspect, as I've stated before, that we've not seen the last of the Theranos story, nor of the illuminating dots-to-connect that this most recent article outlines.
See you on the flip side...
Help the Community Grow
Please understand a donation is a gift and does not confer membership or license to audiobooks. To become a paid member, visit member registration.