Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes slams WSJ story at newspaper event; publication responds

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes vehemently disputed recent Wall Street Journal coverage about her health-technology start-up, saying at the WSJD tech conference that a recent article was erroneous, baseless and lacked context.

"I read what was written in the article," she said on stage Wednesday. "We think it was false, and we think it was misleading."

Theranos offers hundreds of laboratory diagnostic tests to detect cholesterol levels, cancer, STDs and other medical conditions using drops of blood. The Journal story, which relied on unnamed sources, said the Palo Alto company was struggling to turn hype around its blood-test technology into reality and questioned the tests' accuracy. Holmes said many of those sources were "clearly very confused."

During her 40-minute conversation with global tech editor Jonathan Krim, Holmes defended the company's methods and innovation, saying all of its "finger-stick-based" prick tests use proprietary technology; the Journal story said that its proprietary machine was used only in a tiny fraction of tests and that Theranos had to rely on commercially available technology instead.

The Journal story said Theranos could be violating federal rules if the company isn't reporting that its tests are inaccurate. Holmes said she could stand by the results and said the company was working closely with the FDA to align with the agency's framework and quality systems, and had voluntarily submitted all of its tests and test systems.

Still, she conceded that results can vary from machine to machine and "the only way to look at it is on a case-by-case basis." She also was vague at times and danced around certain topics when questioned directly by Krim.

The Journal article mentioned internal emails that called into question Theranos' accuracy on certain lab tests. Holmes, 31, said the emails were taken out of context and she planned to release them "into the public domain."

"We don't do what's in that article," she said. "Just because some guy reports false stuff about us doesn't change our business."

A few hours after the morning event, the Journal released a lengthy statement reiterating that its story was "thoroughly reported, fair and wholly accurate."

"Nothing said at the conference by Ms. Holmes refutes the accuracy of the reporting done by John Carreyrou or of the articles, which were subject to the Journal’s rigorous and careful editing process," the statement said.

"Contrary to Ms. Holmes’s claims, the Journal shared all facts and anecdotes published in the articles with Theranos before publication, in accordance with our longstanding editorial practice and principles. The company was given plenty of opportunity to respond. Ms. Holmes declined interview requests from the Journal for more than five months, but the general counsel and outside counsel of Theranos provided significant input, which was fairly reflected in the articles."

Twitter: @byandreachang

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