The Theranos Story, ch. 32: 155 employees out in latest layoffs, 220 left to go

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]Endlessly, flatly spinning, towards Ground Zero…. As a marketing person made redundant (US=laid off) for various reasons by companies (moving out of area, acquisition, dissolution, etc.), this Editor has zero joy in reporting that 155 Theranos employees will be discharged as it “re-engineers its operations” “towards commercialization of the miniLab testing platform and its related technologies” “aligned to meet product development, regulatory and commercial milestones.” Their Friday press release successfully buried itself on a weekend, aided by a tragic Heaping Helping of Bad News out of Fort Lauderdale. The rationale is that this is justified to better position itself to commercialize the miniLab and “related technologies”. The miniLab reportedly is a compact, microwave-sized lab that automates small volume samples by sending them for analysis to a central server which would do the full analysis, thus driving down cost and time.

Theranos is a company flailing. This Editor notes in its string of releases an endless emphasis on compliance, regulation and operational expertise, the kind of attitude and caution that should have been present years ago. The layoffs follow on last October’s involuntary exits of 340 employees and lab closings (Chapter 21). Run the numbers and there are 220 employees left to go. Will the miniLab, seemingly hastily concocted, be their salvation? Flip back to our Chapter 18 about the October AACC meeting.  Chemical laboratory professionals were distinctly underwhelmed by the miniLab and CEO Elizabeth Holmes’ presentation. Also not boding well was Theranos’ withdrawal of a miniLab Zika test FDA emergency clearance in late August, at the height of the crisis. What may be wafting is the aroma of performing seals on a hot day.

Speaking of leadership, is Ms Holmes among the fired or demoted? Highly unlikely as she controls all $9 of the company’s formerly $9 bn Unicorn Worth. Is she even taking a pay cut? Will you see her out in front of Palo Alto HQ mowing the long grass?

To nearly 500 people now wondering about their livelihood in one of the most expensive areas of the US, how damaged they will be by their association with Theranos? Despite the ‘fail fast’ mantra of Silicon Valley, there’s little tolerance by employers for those at the operational level having a failed company in their past. These people should have our empathy, not ‘guilt by association’, and as appropriate, respect for their skills which were badly used in their last situation.

One also wonders how long it will take before there is another Chapter in The Theranos Story, one that they will file via one of their multitudinous law firms–Chapter 11. Consumerist (Consumer Reports), Yahoo News.

See here for the 31 previous TTA chapters in this Continuing, Consistently Amazing Saga, including the resignation of General Mattis from the BOD (Ch. 31), Theranos’ annus horribilis (Ch. 30) and the law firm feeding frenzy (Ch. 29).

The Theranos Story, ch. 21: the denouement of tears, fears and lawsuits

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]Finally, Theranos sinks its labs, Wellness Centers…and 340 employees. Since founder/CEO/controlling shareholder Elizabeth Holmes has been banned by CMS from running any labs for the next two years, shutting ’em down makes total sense in terms of saving her job. (Of course, if you are one of those fired employees in Arizona, California or Pennsylvania, it doesn’t. But hey, you may be worth more than Ms Holmes!) What she’s betting what is left of the company on is the miniLab, which hasn’t exactly come heartily out of the gate. It was Gimlet Eyed at the AACC annual meeting in Philadelphia, then shortly thereafter she withdrew from FDA review a Zika test using the miniLab due to lack of a patient-safety protocol approved by an institutional review board. (Tsk, tsk–Ed.)

Now the news of a lawsuit by a major investor will, in its process, reveal more of the Bubble That Was Theranos and possibly put the banana peel under the pivot. Investors sank over $800 million into the company, and one of them, Partner Fund Management, wants its $96 million back like Lee Marvin as Walker in Point Blank. According to the Wall Street Journal, which originally wielded the needle, the charges are that they and other funds were lured in by fraudulent claims and various misrepresentations of the Edison technology and its effectiveness–in other words, that they had labs and tests that actually worked. The SEC continues to investigate, including subpoenaing Partner and possibly other investors.  ABC News, Wall Street Journal (search on title ‘Major Investor Sues Theranos’ if you hit the paywall), Gizmodo 30 Aug, 11 Oct (a wonderfully Gimlety take by Eve Peyser), and a series of acid flashbacks in Forbes

See here for the 20 previous TTA chapters.