‘Miracle Patch,’ 2

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Monday, August 4, 2014


WHEN the mention of a miracle patch was made in this space a couple of weeks ago, I received sporadic calls asking what it really was, and why there was no basic information about it. Well, somehow, it was true, but probably because the “patch” was not the main point of the piece I wrote. Anyway, I realized that there was a kind of injustice I did to the particular work of the 19-year-old creator.

The Fortune magazine copy containing the feature article about the “Miracle Patch” was given to me by my younger sister, Lorna, who married a Swedish consultant of World Bank. She complained that I said nothing about what the “Patch” was about. The founder of the revolutionary blood diagnostics company, Theranos, was only 19 years old then.

Her story began in 2003, according to a chemical engineering professor at Stanford University. One of his sophomore students showed up in his office, plopped down on a chair and said: “Let’s start a company.”

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According to the professor, he had seen thousands of undergraduates in his more than 33-years of teaching, and he had known the student for just more than a year. She was different. “The novelty of how she would view a complex technical problem was unique.”

Earlier, as a freshman, Elizabeth Holmes attended seminars on various ways of delivering drugs, “things like patches, pills, and even a contact lens-like film that secreted glaucoma medication.” But then she “invented” something that he had never even imagined, much less conceived before. “It was a wearable patch that, in addition to administering a drug, would monitor variables in the patient’s blood.”

The term Theranos, the name of the corporation that young Miss Holmes founded, came from the two words “therapy” and “diagnose.” It was a unique name for a company that grew to be a nine billion dollars enterprise.

Still, according to her mentor, he had doubts about the idea, but when he asked her why she wanted to do it, she replied: “Because systems like this could completely revolutionize how effective health care is delivered. And this is what I want to do.”

That, the professor said, clinched the matter for him. Theranos today is a potentially highly disruptive upstart in America’s $73 billion diagnostic-lab industry, which “performs nearly 10 billion tests a year and is estimated to provide about 70 percent of doctors’ decisions. Medicare and Medicaid each pay roughly $10 billion a year."

The corporation operates what is considered a high-complexity laboratory. It is certified to by the federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, offers more than 200 tests, but it is aiming to “offer more than 1000 of the most commonly ordered blood diagnostic tests, all without the need for syringe.”

Theranos tests are said to be performed on the most minimum blood. Its “technology uses such microscopic amount of blood, and should eventually allow physicians far greater latitude in their work.

Indeed, this kind of test is said to have required a voluminous amount of blood before.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 05, 2014.

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