Last semester, in the Midwest Entrepreneurs class here at Monmouth College, we focused on local and regional entrepreneurs. However, several of the 21 guest speakers in class were involved in operations spanning far beyond the Monmouth area.
One of our speakers last semester was Monmouth College Board of Trustees member Larry Gerdes (of Atlanta-based Gerdes Huff Investments; a venture capital financing services firm). Mr. Gerdes’ business partner is 1956 Monmouth College graduate Walter Huff; yes, the Huff behind the Huff Athletic Center here on campus. The blog entry for Mr. Gerdes’ class visit follows:
Recently, I received an e-mail from Political Economy & Commerce department head Mike Connell that links Mr. Gerdes and Mr. Huff to a remarkable new entrepreneurial innovation that holds the potential to positively alter the manner in which medical diagnoses are performed.
Specifically, venture capitalists Gerdes and Huff were “early investors”—in 2004—in a technology recently brought to market by Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout who has spent the last 10 years perfecting the technology that serves as the foundation for Theranos, the life sciences firm she founded in 2003. The technology developed by Holmes—and funded, in part, by Gerdes and Huff—has potential to truly revolutionize not only medical diagnoses but health care service provision on a grand and global scale.
The technology and its potential was recently disclosed for the first time in a Wall Street Journal article (see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324123004579055003869574012.html).
Although I encourage you to read the entire article to get a more comprehensive feel for this extraordinary example of the power of entrepreneurism, the following quotation from the article provides a good summary feel for what this technology can do.
“The secret that hundreds of employees are now refining involves devices that automate and miniaturize more than 1,000 laboratory tests, from routine blood work to advanced genetic analyses. Theranos’s processes are faster, cheaper and more accurate than the conventional methods and require only microscopic blood volumes, not vial after vial of the stuff. The experience will be revelatory to anyone familiar with current practices, which often seem like medicine by Bram Stoker.
A Theranos technician first increases blood flow to your hand by applying a wrap similar to one of those skiing pocket warmers, then uses a fingerstick to draw a few droplets of blood from the capillaries at the end of your hand. The blood wicks into a tube in a cartridge that Ms. Holmes calls a “nanotainer,” which holds microliters of a sample, or about the amount of a raindrop. The nanotainer is then run through the analyzers in a Theranos laboratory. Results are usually sent back to a physician, but a full blood work-up—metabolic and immune markers, cell count, etc.—was in my inbox by the time I walked out the door. (Phew: all clear.)”
Wow… One thousand lab tests from a few drops of blood with nearly instantaneous results… Talk about a major improvement in medical diagnosis. For many people, this means no more drawing of perhaps multiple vials of blood and then waiting days or weeks to get the results. I cannot remember of hearing of such advancement in the medical–or any other field–in many, many years; maybe ever.
You may soon see the Theranos technology at work. According to the article, the company recently launched a “…partnership with Walgreens for in-store sample-collection centers, with the first one in Palo Alto and expanding throughout California and beyond. Ms. Holmes’s long-term goal is to provide Theranos services ‘within five miles of virtually every American home.’”
I contacted Larry Gerdes about the technology and here is what he had to say.
“Theranos will be disruptive to the current healthcare delivery system in many ways. Its technology may be more accurate in not only diagnosis but also spotting impending issues at a much reduced cost and quicker. It has already done that for clinical trials-it now may do that on a grander scale. It may eliminate cost and in efficiency of regional labs as well. Eventually it may be a personalized black box. Big stuff.”
Big stuff indeed; likely to disrupt the entire healthcare delivery system… And, as we discussed in the Midwest Entrepreneurs class last semester, innovations of this magnitude are far more likely to come from entrepreneurs than large corporations. And in this case, there is a connection to Monmouth College.
In closing… Several people have inquired as to why I have not been updating the Midwest Entrepreneurs blog. The main reason for my absence is that the class is presently taught only in the Spring semester; so, no class and no guest speakers to talk about on a regular basis right now. I am trying to change that in the future so that the class is offered every semester. More on this as things progress…
In the meantime, I will be periodically posting stories and comment such as today’s as I become aware of “current news/events” involving entrepreneurs; particularly when there is a local or regional connection. Feel free to forward stories to me for consideration at firstname.lastname@example.org.