Looking To Regain Its Reputation, Theranos Appoints Advisory Board Of Biotech Experts

The advisory board will work alongside Theranos’ board of directors, which until last year held more well-connected VIPs than scientific experts.

Looking To Regain Its Reputation, Theranos Appoints Advisory Board Of Biotech Experts
[Photo: courtesy of Theranos]

In an attempt to regain its reputation after months of controversy and layoffs, blood-testing startup Theranos is appointing an advisory board of pharmaceutical and medical device experts to work alongside its scientific advisors.

Theranos was once a media darling, with its Stanford-dropout CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, promising the company could detect “hundreds of diseases” with a single drop of blood. But from the outset, it seemed odd to many scientists that the board of directors consisted of VIPs with government connections like Henry Kissinger, but very few scientific experts. Theranos created a new scientific advisory board last summer, in the fallout of a Wall Street Journal investigative series that kicked off in the fall of 2015. At that point, Theranos let go its original board.

The company started to unravel after the investigation by the Wall Street Journal exposed flaws with the company’s technology. Theranos is now facing litigation–mostly recently, reports surfaced that Arizona is preparing to sue for fraud–layoffs, and government sanctions.

It remains an open question whether the company can rebuild, which will involve finding other targets for its technology (and presumably, providing a bit more transparency about how it works). Theranos says that its new advisors will be tasked with reviewing Theranos’s technology initiatives, interacting with its product developers, evaluating target markets, and proposing new technologies.

According to a release viewed by Fast Company, Channing Robertson (a prominent academic) and Howie Rosen (CEO of AcelRx Pharmaceuticals Inc., a specialty pharma company) will co-lead the new advisory board.

The company revealed at a major scientific conference last year that it is pivoting to work on a technology that essentially takes equipment used in a lab and puts it in a box (a challenging and expensive problem, according to many scientists). The advisors will initially be focused on finding a market for that technology, called the miniLab.

Here’s a full list of the board members:

    [* Dr. Harvey Blanch, Merck professor (Emeritus) of Biochemical Engineering at Berkeley.

  1. Dr. John Moalli, acting head of product at Theranos at a lecturer at Stanford University.
  2. Dr. Allen Northrup, cofounder of Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company.
  3. Clint Ostrander, former CEO and president of Kozio Inc., and a former scientific medical researcher at Stanford.
  4. Dr. Norbert Pelc, professor of bioengineering and radiology at Stanford.
  5. Dr. Mark Prausnitz, professor of chemical and bimolecular engineering at George Institute of Technology.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect changes on the board of directors last summer.

About the author

Christina Farr is a San Francisco-based journalist specializing in health and technology. Before joining Fast Company, Christina worked as a reporter for VentureBeat, Reuters and KQED.

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