Revolutionizing the Lab Test Industry

More stories from Angel Winklepleck

A decade ago, a young woman with a fear and a dream dropped out of Stanford’s chemical engineering program in pursuit of innovation. Then 19, the now 30-year-old Elizabeth Holmes used tuition money her parents had saved to open her own business. The goal? To completely revamp the blood testing industry, valued at $76 billion. The result of Holmes’s ambition was Theranos Wellness Center. Theranos, currently valued at 9 billion USD, has made Holmes the youngest female billionaire in the United States.

So what drove Holmes to start her business? “My father worked in disaster relief and so I grew up in a house that had pictures of all these little children in really tough parts of the world,” she said. “I was absolutely convinced that was what I was going to do. Then when I started realizing that a company could be a vehicle for having very direct impact over a change that you are trying to make, I started thinking about the concept of what could I build that could impact a lot of peoples’ lives?”

Holmes has a fear of needles, which she feels many Americans share. “I really believe that if we were from another planet and we sat down to put our heads together on torture experiments, the concept of sticking a needle into someone and sucking their blood out would probably qualify as a pretty good one,” she told CNN.

The company comes as a relief to an industry that has remained stagnant since the 1960s. “Forty to sixty percent of Americans today are not compliant with even the basic tests that their physicians give them when they do see them, because often they can’t afford it, or they are scared of needles,” Holmes said. Theranos’s tests remove the need for tourniquets and shipping vials to laboratories. Seventy lab tests can be determined from a single drop in less than four hours.

Theranos offers nearly 1,000 different blood tests, with the prices listed on their website. Each tests costs $30, and are currently available in 20 California and Arizona Walgreens locations. Holmes’s aim is to have a Theranos in every Walgreens in the nation, and one center with five miles of every American.

Holmes says that this new form of testing will encourage patients to get blood tests and aid in detecting illness. With over 7 billion lab tests executed annually that decide 80% of medical decisions for patients in the United States, Holmes’s company is bound to radically disrupt the trade.