SAN JOSE, California – James Mattis, a retired 4-star Marine general and former Secretary of Defense, testified Wednesday at the fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the adjudication startup. blood test Theranos, that she misinformed him before and during her time on the company’s board.
Mr. Mattis, who has served on the board for several years, said he supported the startup’s mission of cheap, fast and accessible blood tests but lost confidence after The Wall The Street Journal revealed major problems with the technology in 2015. It became clear to him that Ms. Holmes had not spoken to the director of Theranos about the problems.
“We wouldn’t have been able to help her with the fundamental issues she was struggling with if we had only seen them in the rearview mirror,” Mattis said. He stepped down from the board at the end of 2016 after President Donald J. Trump nominated him to be Secretary of Defense.
Two years later, Theranos collapsed amid lawsuits, fines and financial troubles, and federal prosecutors charged Ms Holmes and her business partner, Ramesh Balwani, with dozens of crimes fraudsters and conspiracies. Both pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison.
Mr. Mattis was the most prominent person to date in the high-profile jury trial, which began in August. Other potential witnesses include Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who has invested in Theranos; David Boies, the company’s outside attorney; and Bill Frist, a former senator and Theranos board member.
As Mr. Mattis spoke, Mrs. Holmes sat up straight in her chair and stared in his direction.
Mr. Mattis testified that he met Holmes after a speech in 2011. He was excited by the prospect of the military using a Theranos blood analyzer, which Holmes claims can perform thousands of tests. faster, cheaper and more accurate than traditional laboratory tests, using only a finger smeared with blood. Mattis was also impressed with Ms Holmes personally, he said, describing her as “shrewd, clear, dedicated”.
Mattis said he pushed the military to run a test program of Theranos analyzers to see how they would work alongside its existing systems before joining the board. “I wanted to have a comparative study of Theranos from Day One so we could put it online,” he said. But none of the tests came to fruition.
When Mattis joined the board, he invested $85,000 in Theranos as a backing, which he said was a substantial sum “for someone who has served the government for 40 years.” He also withdrew from any military contract for moral reasons.
He testified that he was not aware of any contracts between Theranos and the military, a key claim in the prosecution’s case against Ms Holmes. She told investors that Theranos devices were used on battlefields in Afghanistan.
Mr. Mattis said Mrs Holmes was his main source of information about Theranos and its technology. Prosecutors presented a presentation she gave to the board that said 10 of the 15 largest pharmaceutical companies had endorsed the startup’s machinery, along with endorsements by the startup. researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the logos of the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.
Such presentations gave Mattis confidence in Theranos’ technology, he said, because “it’s not just Elizabeth who talks about it.”
After The Journal reported that Theranos only performed some blood tests on its own machine while doing the rest with traditional blood analyzers, the panel scrambled to assess the accuracy of the report. , according to the emails referred to as proof.
Ms Holmes emailed that Theranos was making the switch to a different “framework” for her lab. Mr Mattis said he was confused and concerned, but backed Ms Holmes, saying it was just a matter of texting.
“I think it’s something we can fix if we recognize the truth there,” he said.
Over time, Mattis said, he lost hope when he learned that the problem was deeper and deeper – that Theranos’ machines weren’t working.
“The time has come when I don’t know what to believe about Theranos anymore,” he said.