Erika Cheung, a former Theranos lab worker turned whistleblower, detailed how the company manipulated data in order to pass quality control in her testimony in the fraud trial of Holmes. She testified that Theranos employees would delete up to two of six data points in a test to achieve the desired result, CNN reported.
To investors, Elizabeth Holmes promoted a blood-testing device that could accurately diagnose a myriad of conditions with a single drop of blood. These boasts helped her raise hundreds of millions of dollars for her company, but the boasts were empty, and they made some employees of the now-defunct company uncomfortable.
During Cheung’s testimony, the government presented charts that included data from 2014 showing approximately 25% of tests conducted on the Theranos technology failed quality control. That fail rate was drastically different compared to devices that had already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which were far more accurate. The former employee testified that those approved devices rarely failed.
Although her testimony appears damaging to Theranos, the Holmes defense team highlighted Cheung’s limited experience with testing due to that having been her first industry job. The legal team presented its own charts that indicated the company disclosed when data was removed from sets to demonstrate accountability.
Additionally, Holmes’ legal team noted that the data was never approved by the former CEO, but by lab administrators. Part of the Holmes defense strategy is to demonstrate that it was the lab director and not the chief executive officer of Theranos who decided the accuracy and reliability of tests.