International Forecaster Weekly

How to Lose 9 Billion

Given Theranos' board, it isn't difficult to determine that securing contracts with the DoD has been a part of their business plan for some time. It's also not hard to see why military contracts are such a plum prize for a medical technology company with questionable products.

James Corbett | April 23, 2016

Monty Python had a classic sketch entitled "How To Do It" where they made fun of trite "How To" programs. In addition to playing the flute, splitting an atom, constructing a box girder bridge and irrigating the Sahara desert, this episode teaches you how to rid the world of all known diseases!

So how do you do it? "Well, first of all become a doctor and discover a marvelous cure for something, and then, when the medical world really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right so there'll never be diseases any more."


You might think this is a joke. But it seems one enterprising young college dropout used it as inspriation for founding her $9 billion company.

You've probably heard the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos by now: The 19 year old Stanford dropout founded Theranos in 2003 with the hopes of revolutionizing the lab testing industry. No more large samples of blood drawn by needles from veins in the arm in order to do blood work. Now all you need is a finger prick device and the company's patented "Edison machine" which (they boast) can perform up to 200 different tests from just a few drops of blood.

And you've probably also heard how that story is falling apart in front of the world's eyes right now. Questions about the company's technology snowballed into accusations of fraud and now Theranos and Holmes are under federal investigation for potentially lying to investors and partners about their practices.

Here's the part of the story you likely haven't heard (yet): Elizabeth Holmes was no ordinary child wonder. She was the daughter of Noel Anne Daoust, a foreign policy and defense aide in Washington, and Christian Holmes IV, who formerly worked for Enron and is now the "Global Water Coordinator" for USAID...yes, that USAID. Perhaps this explains why Theranos' board of directors did not consist of the medical researchers, tech startup veterans or regulatory experts you would expect such a company to draw, but instead a who's who of the (globalist) den of vipers in Washington.

Seriously, just look at their board as it stood last year:

Board Member



Henry Kissinger

Former Secretary of State


Bill Perry

Former Secretary of Defense


George Schultz

Former Secretary of State


Bill Frist

Former Senate Majority Leader


Sam Nunn

Former Senator


Gary Roughead

Former Navy Admiral


James Mattis

Former Marine Corps General


Dick Kovocovich

Former CEO of Wells Fargo


Riley Bechtel

Former CEO of Bechtel


William Foege



Elizabeth Holmes

Founder & CEO, Theranos


Sunny Balwani

President & COO, Theranos



Really? Three former U.S. cabinet secretaries, two former U.S. senators, a retired Navy admiral and a retired Marine Corps general. What company in the world has a board like this, let alone a medical tech company?

And Henry Kissinger? George Schultz? Bill Frist? Sam Nunn? What on earth do any of these people have to do with laboratory testing technologies?

And why stack the deck with 90+ year old Washington globalist insiders rather than people who might have a chance of knowing something about the lab testing industry or the medical regulatory process?

One of the board members who might give us some insight into what is really happening here is James Mattis. In 2012 Theranos was seeking a partnership with the Department of Defense and had submitted its blood test technology for review in a military research project. One of the reviewers sounded the alarm about the technology and requested an FDA review of the product. Holmes countered by appealing directly to Marine General Mattis, then Commander of USCENTCOM and a personal acquaintance who had begun pushing for field deployment of Theranos testing in 2011. Mattis passed her appeal on to his staff, asking how they could help 'correct the record' for the regulators. The very next year, after retiring from the military, Mattis took up his post on Theranos' board. Don't worry, though, the move was cleared by a defense department ethics advisor, so it must be legit.

Given Theranos' board, it isn't difficult to determine that securing contracts with the DoD has been a part of their business plan for some time. It's also not hard to see why military contracts are such a plum prize for a medical technology company with questionable products. Not only is it a chance to tap into the never-ending multi-trillion dollar slush fund that is the US "defense" budget, but perhaps more importantly technologies delivered under military contract are not subject to the same regulatory hurdles that public-facing technologies would be. This is precisely why they were submitting their concoction for military testing in the first place and the exact defense that Holmes used when appealing to Matthis.

But the bigger long con here is not just about military contracts. It's about opening up whole new markets for the blood testing industry. It's currently a $75 billion a year industry, and that number is expected to increase to $90 billion by 2018. But part of what Theranos is doing is trying to bust the doors open on currently existing laws and restrictions to allow on-premises blood testing to be available to the public at the public's request.

Currently blood testing has to be ordered by a doctor and generally sent to a lab where it can take weeks to get results back. Theranos is promising 4 hour turnaround in tests that will be available right there at the pharmacy. They've already made inroads, with a bill they were pushing in Arizona to allow do-it-yourself lab testing passing last summer. This has led to Theranos testing being available in Walgreens "wellness centers" throughout the state.

Even if Theranos ends up going down in flames, the legislative wheels are in motion and there is momentum toward opening up more states for do-it-yourself testing. And even if Theranos isn't there to take advantage of it, other big name companies certainly will be.

All of this raises the intriguing question: has Theranos been set up as a wrecking ball to open up a wider market for lab testing to reach the consumer level? Perhaps it doesn't even matter to the arch globalists who have been on board with Theranos whether or not that company itself is the one providing the tests, just so long as the market is opened.

There are, of course, many ways to examine the Theranos story. It is a cautionary tale about media hype running ahead of the story. It is a sobering story about how people can be tricked by high-tech charlatans spouting exciting rhetoric (even though there's nothing to back it up). It is a chance to examine the nexus between power in Washington and the big pharma medical tech industry.

But whatever way you slice it, something is rotten in the state of Theranos, and unless there is some stunning vindication of the company and its technology very quickly the next "How To" that Elizabeth Holmes will be giving is "How to lose $9 billion" or "How to lose $9 billion and go to jail."