The Big Read

Beyond Bad Blood: Healthtech startup Truvian hopes to succeed where Theranos failed

VANCOUVER — At Truvian’s San Diego headquarters last November, a group of venture capitalists considering an investment in the health-tech company made an unprecedented request. Before watching a demo of the company’s blood-diagnostic machine, they asked Truvian staff to remove its casing, so they could see its inner workings as it processed the blood samples.

“I’ve been in diagnostics a little over 20 years. I’ve never had the issue. I’ve never had an investor … at this phase, see positive data and then say, ‘And I still want to see it running in your lab,’ and, ‘Oh, and I want to see it running with the covers off,’” said Jeff Hawkins, Truvian’s CEO. He chalks it up to the fallout from the scandal at Theranos.

It’s been more than five years since The Wall Street Journal exposed a sensational alleged fraud at the Silicon Valley startup, with charges against founder Elizabeth Holmes still making their way through the courts. Given its spectacular failure, investors would “be crazy not to think of Theranos and lessons learned from there” when assessing any point-of-care blood-diagnostics company, said Megh Gupta, a partner at Wittington Ventures.

Nonetheless, last month, the Canadian venture capital firm co-led the company’s latest fundraising round, which totalled more than US$105 million. For Loblaw-linked Wittington, it’s a bet on a startup whose technology could one day be deployed at Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies. For Truvian, the vote of confidence from Wittington and its co-investors is a sign the company has managed to escape Theranos’s long shadow.

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