Women at tech start-ups wrote to her to thank her for saying what they felt, Ms Esponnette said.
Lola Priego, 30, the founder of Base, which offers at-home blood and saliva tests processed in traditional labs, hears a Theranos comparison at least once a week, she said. The references come directly or indirectly from potential partners, advisors, investors, clients and reporters, she said.
She said she understood the need for skepticism as new healthcare companies need to be scrutinized to avoid malpractice. Often the comparisons stopped after people found out that Base partners with Quest Diagnostics, a multinational company, to analyze its tests.
“But the extra bias and skepticism is a challenge to overcome,” said Ms. Priego.
The biggest blow came from a scientific advisor who said Ms Priego tried to recruit in 2019. The advisor took the meeting just to tell her that introducing technology into healthcare is doing the industry a disservice, as is Theranos. It left Ms. Priego wondering if she could hire the caliber of consultants she’d hoped for.
“It was pretty demoralizing,” she said. She has now recruited six advisors.
In July, Verge Genomics entered into a three-year partnership with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to work on drugs to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, Ms. Zhang said. The company also published a paper on its methods in a science journal last year and hired a chief science officer this year.
It was a relief to show something to those who doubted, Ms Zhang said.
“The most vulnerable part of the business is the earliest phase, when you have to buy the people, the vision and the idea,” she said. Reflecting on Ms. Holmes and Theranos, she added, “These kinds of associations can be really harmful and limit the potential.”