The rise and precipitous fall of biotech startup Theranos has been something to see. The company was famous for Edison – its platform which allowed physicians to run an entire battery of tests on a single sample of blood.
Except it didn’t work. Not really. The fundamental failings of the Edison system were exposed in an explosive Wall Street Journal piece published in October 2015. As a result of that article, Theranos is being sued by its biggest and most high-profile customer, Wallgreens, as well as one of its principal investors, Partner Fund Management, for $240 million.
Theranos, which was valued at $9 billion in 2014 and boasted board-members such as Henry Kissinger and James Mattis, is now worth less than $800 million. Its CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, has gone from being the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire with a net value of $3.5 billion, to being worth exactly nothing.
We knew Theranos was in deep shit. But we didn’t quite know how bad it was. A recent article — again, in the Wall Street Journal — lays bare how screwed the company is.
First, it had ‘no material revenue in 2015 and 2016’. That, in itself, isn’t so surprising.
Theranos has one product, and it’s been demonstrated rather conclusively not to work. While it’s working on a new testing machine called MiniLab, there’s an (understandable) air of skepticism surrounding it.
Secondly, the company is running out of cash, quickly. According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s down to its last $200 million.
This cash-burn is impressive when you consider that during its 14-year lifespan, Theranos raised an impressive $900 million through investors and corporate partners. And that’s saying nothing about the cash it earned through its deals with Wallgreens, as well as several well-known insurers and healthcare providers.
Theranos is now in a difficult position. It’s currently being sued for more cash than it has on hand. Its tainted reputation means that it’s unlikely an investor will swoop in and save the day.
Even if they did, and the company was able to move forward with the development and marketing of MiniLab, who would buy it? In an industry where trust is everything, it’s hard to see a situation where Theranos could possibly recover.