Blood Tests, Theranos, and the Future

by Kara Mitman | Jul 14, 2015

There was an interesting article a few months ago in Fortune about Theranos, which we are now sharing and expressing our thoughts on its implications.

The CEO of Theranos, 30 year old Elizabeth Holmes, has a vision to transform healthcare by improving current blood extraction methods. Theranos makes a blood test system that requires only a finger prick and performs tests at a fraction of the cost of current techniques. Holmes announced that Theranos has partnered with Walgreens in hopes to incorporate a Theranos lab center in each U.S. store.

Granting patients the ability to more easily and cost-effectively attain blood test results is an important component of efforts directed towards earlier detection and prevention of disease. What is particularly interesting about the availability of Theranos technology within every Walgreens is the potential impact on the industry. Integrating blood test results with a Walgreen’s pharmacy and/or clinic could enable nearly immediate early detection, diagnosis, and care in one step. Imagine detecting disease (e.g., flu, diabetes) before it becomes symptomatic and taking steps to prevent it from worsening in one casual trip to Walgreens!

Theranos’s valuation of $9 billion not only highlights the strong interest in patient empowering technologies directed towards earlier disease detection and prevention, but it also highlights how medicine is shifting away from simply treating symptoms of a disease to preventing the disease in the first place. Disease prevention requires patients/consumers to be more “connected” to their health. And this is why we are seeing more “consumerization” of health — more devices (e.g., FitBit.), more apps, and more technologies (e.g., 23andme). We expect this trend will continue and that the rate of innovation and new products to detect and prevent disease will accelerate. The implication of this trend is both exciting and troubling. It is beneficial for healthcare costs, patients, and life expectancy. However, it is not clear what this will mean for the $1 trillion bio-pharmaceutical industry that continues to be largely driven by medicines that treat symptoms of disease.

What are your thoughts?