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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes' trial continues today, and the past week of testimony has painted a concerning picture: Mega-companies like Safeway and Walgreens seem like they didn't do great due diligence.

Why it matters: Holmes is accused of defrauding investors and patients, but her defense team is intent on showing that she was very upfront about Theranos — if only investors listened.

The big picture: Theranos' aim of producing quick blood tests that could be done on-site with its machines undoubtedly captured the imagination of both companies.

  • Former executives testified about their excitement over its potential driving them to strike deals with Theranos.
  • Yet, both seemed to either ignore red flags — like experts at Johns Hopkins University telling former Safeway CEO Steve Burd they'd not been able to keep the machine long enough to validate it. (Burd also told the court that Safeway performed "at least 100 hours" of due diligence, which makes this even more confounding.)
  • Safeway also didn't set any real deadlines for the Theranos clinic rollout, something Burd explained by saying that it was nascent tech.
  • And while Burd seemed to get frustrated with Theranos' slow pace and delays, ex-Walgreens CFO Wade Miquelon was supportive of Holmes even as some reports about the company began to emerge in 2015 that things were amiss with its technology, per emails shown in court.
  • Walgreens also agreed to pay Theranos a $100 million "innovation fee" (whatever that is).

Yes, but: Both companies' agreements with Theranos included escape hatches, such as Safeway's ability to terminate the pilot program of clinics if it's not satisfied.

  • This signals that it's possible the companies had some reservations about Theranos' ability to deliver on its ambitious tech goals.

The bottom line: Theranos didn't have to do very much to get some very sophisticated entities to trust it.

Go deeper: Jim Mattis testifies that Elizabeth Holmes misled him about Theranos

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Nov 22, 2021 - Technology

Ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes testifies in her own defense

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer. Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic via Getty Images.

Elizabeth Holmes today continued testifying in her criminal fraud trial, after unexpectedly taking the stand in her own defense on Friday.

The latest: The former Theranos CEO sought to undermine prosecutor claims that she lied to prospective investors about the blood testing company's work with drug makers.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

Massage, facial, pedicure... intravenous drip?

A salon on the Upper East Side of New York that offers IV drip therapies. Photo: Jennifer A. Kingson/Axios

IV drips — the kind you might get if you're rushed to the hospital — are trending as a spa treatment, thanks in part to endorsements by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Madonna.

Why it matters: Like other "wellness" trends with a whiff of medical imprimatur, IV nutrient drips can be harmless or mildly restorative — or go awry, particularly in the wrong hands.

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.