Theranos scientists were forced to sleep in their cars overnight following a backlog with delays blood testing machines which the company’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was rushing to get them into Walgreens pharmacies.
Erika Cheung, a lab associate, detailed how quality control failures in the lab were so frequent that substantial delays built up in test results for patients.
‘We had people sleeping in their cars because it was just taking too long,’ Cheung testified. ‘Every few days we were having to run samples over and over again.’
Former Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes (L) walks with her mother Noel Holmes (R) as they arrive for court in San Jose, California on Friday morning
Holmes goes through security after arriving for court at the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building in San Jose, California
Holmes is facing charges of conspiracy and wire fraud for allegedly engaging in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud investors with the Theranos blood testing lab services
Former lab associate Erika Cheung detailed how quality control failures in the lab were so frequent that substantial delays built up in test results for patients.
Cheung told the court how she told Theranos bosses that the company’s technology should not be used on patients, and the results it produced were about as reliable as ‘flipping a coin.’
‘You’d have about the same luck flipping a coin as to whether your results were right or wrong,’
Later on Friday, a former Theranos scientist took to the stand in the San Jose federal court, testifying how Holmes pressured her to validate blood test results from the company’s specialized equipment, known as Edison machines, in order to speed up a rollout in Walgreens, despite there being known problems with the device’s accuracy.
Surekha Gangakhedkar worked as a senior scientist at Theranos for eight years and reported directly to Holmes.
She told the court on Friday how after returning from a vacation in August 2013 she was learned how Theranos was about to launch its Edison blood-testing devices in Walgreens stores despite there being basic errors in the machine’s operation.
‘I was very stressed and unhappy and concerned with the way the launch was going. I was not comfortable with the plans that they had in place so I made a decision to resign and not continue working there,’ Gangakhedkar said.
Gangakhedkar told of details of a meeting with Holmes in September 2013 about the issues before her resignation.
Holmes was charged with ten counts of wire fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in jail if convinced
Surekha Gangakhedkar, a former senior scientist at Theranos quit following concerns over blood-testing technology. She described how Holmes would pressure employees to validate lab tests before they were ready to be used on patients
Gangakhedkar said that she didn’t believe the Edison 3.0 and 3.5 machines were ready to be used for patient testing, adding ‘there were problems with getting consistent results’, but she noted Holmes was pressuring the team to validate the tests despite ‘in my opinion she was aware,’ of accuracy issues.
‘At that time she mentioned that she has promised to deliver to the customers and didn’t have much of a choice then to go ahead with the launch,’ Gangakhedkar said.
‘Ms. Holmes said she didn’t have much of a choice?’ asked Robert Leach, an assistant U.S. attorney.
‘Yes,’ she replied.
Gangakhedkar had signed a non-disclosure agreement but decided to print out some documents to take home because she was ‘worried about the launch, I was actually scared that if things do not go well I would be blamed.’
She was was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.
Gangakhedkar is the third witness in what will likely be a more-than-three-month-long trial.
Holmes grabbed headlines with her vision of a small machine that could draw a drop of blood from a finger prick could run a range of tests more quickly and accurately than those in conventional laboratories. She is pictured here in 2014
Holmes, who is charged with ten counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud faces up to 20 years in jail if convinced of the felony charges in a case that has captivated Silicon Valley and the biotech world.
The firm is accused of lying that it was able to diagnose a multitude of health conditions with a simple blood test, and further lying to Walgreens in order to set up a partnership which saw testing deployed at the retail giant’s drugstores.
Holmes was a Stanford University dropout who started Theranos in 2003 when she was just 19.
She grabbed headlines with her vision of a small machine that could draw a drop of blood from a finger prick could run a range of tests more quickly and accurately than those in conventional laboratories.
Her defense attorney said Holmes was an ambitious young woman who had made mistakes but did not commit a crime.