Holmes' announcement yesterday comes in the midst of the company's appeal of severe sanctions imposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which among other penalties banned Holmes from owning or running any clinical laboratory for two years. The sanctions stem from deficiencies at Theranos' Newark, California lab, including problems with a blood-clotting test that CMS judged to be life-threatening. That lab has been closed since July, when regulators revoked the company's license to operate it.
Theranos has another lab in Scottsdale, Arizona, so now that will be shuttered as well. But because the government's sanctions preclude Holmes from owning or operating any lab, it's unclear how Holmes could have stayed with the company should Theranos have wished to keep its Arizona lab open. And Holmes, apparently, isn't going anywhere. At least, that seemed to be the case in mid-July, when Theranos issued a sort of FAQ about what the government's sanctions meant for its operations.
"The clinical lab is just one of Theranos’ many opportunities to provide access to high-integrity, affordable and actionable health care information, and the company will continue to carry out its mission under the leadership of its founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes," the company said.
In her open letter yesterday, Holmes said Theranos had installed a new executive team "leading our work toward obtaining FDA clearances, building commercial partnerships, and pursuing publications in scientific journals. We are fortunate to have supporters and investors who believe deeply in our mission of affordable, less invasive lab testing, and to have the runway to realize our vision."
We sent Theranos and Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which Theranos uses for media relations, a query as to how the shuttering of its consumer blood-testing business might affect its appeal of the sanctions. Hill+Knowlton said Theranos would have no comment beyond Holmes' open letter "at this time."
CMS has said it routinely negotiates with companies that it penalizes, but the circumstances for which it lifts sanctions did not seem to apply to Theranos. CMS also said at one point that closing down its labs would not be enough to prevent the penalties from being implemented.
If Theranos has no further comment right now, here's someone who does: Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, whose investigative reporting heralded the beginning of the end for Theranos' status as a golden child of Silicon Valley "disruption." Carreyrou yesterday indulged in a victory tweet: