SAN JOSE, California — The main accuser against Theranos, the blood-testing startup that collapsed after a scandal in 2018, testified Tuesday in a fraud trial against its founder. company, Elizabeth Holmes.
The accuser, Erika Cheung, worked as a lab assistant at Theranos for six months in 2013 and 2014 before reporting problems with lab testing at the company to federal agents at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Medicare & Medicaid service in 2015. Her first day released testimony. before the jury what followers of the Theranos story most likely already knew: The company’s famous blood-testing technology didn’t work.
Her testimony is expected to continue on Wednesday.
In a crowded courtroom, Ms. Cheung said she turned down other job offers while in college to join Theranos because she was fascinated by Holmes’ charm and inspired by her success. of her as a woman in technology. Ms. Holmes said Theranos’ machine, called Edison, would be able to quickly and cheaply distinguish whether people have various diseases with just a few drops of blood.
Ms. Cheung said of Ms. Holmes: “She was very clear and had a strong belief in her mission.
But Ms Cheung’s excitement dwindled after she witnessed actions she disagreed with in Theranos’ lab, she said. In some cases, outlier results of blood tests were removed to ensure that Theranos technology passed quality control tests. Cheung also panicked when she donated her own blood to Theranos, and tests on the company’s machine showed she had a vitamin D deficiency but traditional tests did not.
Ms Cheung, who looked at a menu of about 90 blood tests provided by Theranos, said that despite Ms Holmes’ promise of the Edison machine, they could only handle a handful of the tests listed. The rest has to be done with a traditional blood analyzer or sent to a diagnostic company, she said.
In the end, Ms. Cheung resigned due to doubts about Theranos’ experimental services.
“I am not comfortable handling patient samples,” she said. “I don’t think the technology we’re using is enough to engage in that behaviour.”
In Cheung’s testimony, Holmes’s attorneys objected to various emails and other internal communications submitted by the prosecution as evidence. The two sides debated the rules of argument that could be used and the relevance of Ms. Cheung’s testimony.
Lance Wade, a lawyer representing Holmes, said: “The CEO is not responsible for any communication that takes place within the company.
John Bostic, a prosecutor and an assistant US attorney, argued that the documents show Theranos’ internal affairs were related to the case, regardless of whether Ms Holmes’s name was on it or not.
Mr. Wade countered that Ms. Cheung had been a low-level employee and had barely interacted with Ms. Holmes.
“To the best of our knowledge, the interview you just heard was the longest conversation she has ever had with our client,” he said.
After all, Mrs. Holmes sat quietly in a gray coat and black dress, watching the proceedings from behind a surgical mask.
Cheung’s 2015 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services outlining problems with Theranos’ trial triggered a surprise agency inspection that prompted the company to close its labs. . Tyler Shultz, another young employee in Theranos’ lab, also shared details of the lab problems with The Wall Street Journal, which published the company’s introductions. Mr. Shultz was also listed as a potential witness in the trial. (The previous version of this item misspelled his name as Schultz.)
Since her role in Theranos’ downfall, Ms. Cheung has become an advocate for ethics in technology. She did a TED Talk about truth-to-power and helped found Ethics in Business, a nonprofit that provides ethics training and workshops to founders. startups, employees and investors.