The Theranos Story, ch. 25: is the nadir the $400,000 harassment of whistleblower Tyler Shultz?

click to enlargeA story to make your blood…boil. Tyler Shultz is a 26 year old Stanford University grad with a biology undergraduate degree. He ‘fell in love’ with the Theranos vision of quick small blood sample testing after visiting his grandfather’s home near the campus and meeting, of all people, Elizabeth Holmes in 2011. Tyler snagged a summer internship and then a full time job during their salad and steak days (September 2013). He worked on the assay validation team, which verified the accuracy of blood tests run on Edison machines before they were deployed in the lab for use with patients.

Then it all went sideways…and down. Ms Holmes was at his grandfather’s because he is George Shultz, 95 year old former secretary of state and Fellow at the Hoover Institution based at Stanford. Mr Shultz was one of the numerous Washington alumni lending luster to the Theranos board (now advisers), such as Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, James Mattis and Bill Frist (the last the only one with an MD).

Tyler Shultz soon discovered, like many new graduates, that his dream job wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Except that it wasn’t the hours or the quality of the snacks. He discovered that the Edison machines had highly variable results when tests were rerun with the same blood sample–and they routinely discarded the outliers from the validation reports. Edison testing for a sexually-transmitted infectious disease had a claimed 95 percent sensitivity. “But when Mr. Shultz looked at the two sets of experiments from which the report was compiled, they showed sensitivities of 65% and 80%.” It only got worse when he moved to the production team, where quality control standards were routinely flunked and President Sunny Balwani pressed lab employees to run the tests anyway. Mr Shultz went directly to Ms Holmes, twice, received a nastygram from Mr Balwani for the second, and quit–but not before anonymously sending results to the New York officials who administered a proficiency-testing program and who confirmed that the results sounded like ‘PT cheating’.

The rest of the story by John Carreyou is one of corporate harassment and family estrangement: legal harassment (including private investigators) by none other than David Boies’ law firm on the pretext of ‘confidential information’; the manipulation, currying of favor and misleading of a great but aged man; and a family’s trust fractured if not broken, despite the grandson being proven right, ironically, by the same Washington agencies that his grandfather so loyally served. Mr Shultz is now working on the Cloud DX team for the VITALITI Diagnostic Android Application in the running for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. Wall Street Journal  See here for the 24 previous TTA chapters in this Continuing Saga.

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