They Still Live in the Shadow of Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes

Tech start-up women wrote to her thanking her for sharing their feelings, Ms. Esponnette said.

Lola Priego, 30, the founder of Base, which offers home blood and saliva tests done in traditional laboratories, hears a Theranos comparison at least once a week, she said. The references come directly or indirectly from potential partners, consultants, investors, clients and reporters, she said.

She said she understood the need to be skeptical as new healthcare companies should be viewed critically to prevent wrongdoing. Often times, comparisons stopped after people learned that Base is working with Quest Diagnostics, a multinational company, to analyze its tests.

“But the added bias and skepticism is difficult to overcome,” said Ms. Priego.

The biggest blow came from a scientific advisor who Ms. Priego claims to have tried to recruit in 2019. The consultant only used the meeting to tell her that the introduction of technology into healthcare is doing the industry a disservice, just like Theranos. It made Ms. Priego wonder if she could tune in the caliber of advisors she had hoped for.

“That was pretty demoralizing,” she said. Since then she has hired six consultants.

In July, Verge Genomics entered into a three-year partnership with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to work on drugs to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, Ms. Zhang said. The company also published an article about its methods in a scientific journal last year and hired a chief science officer this year.

It is a relief to be able to show the doubts something, said Ms. Zhang.

“The most fragile part of the company is the earliest stage, when you have to empathize with the people, the vision and the idea,” she said. Regarding Ms. Holmes and Theranos, she added, “This is where these types of associations can be really harmful and limit the potential.”

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