The company depicted in John Carreyrou's Bad Blood was indeed a Cargo Cult Biotech. A sociopath CEO gathers a group of highly educated individuals who pledge allegiance to the narrative. Step one was the narrative. Theranos had a good one, replace highly regulated laboratories and their skilled technicians with with a machine the size of a toaster. Step two was to hire people who will work backwards to provide the product and supporting details. As in all bullshit narratives, the truth is preferable. If the truth does not support the narrative, fake til you make it. The narrative will be altered only as the last straw.
At one point in the Theranos saga an executive from Walgreens was at Theranos for a meeting. He had a plan. He was going to have Theranos do a test on his blood that day. Then he was going to go to Stanford Hospital and get the same test done with them. It is about as simple as one can design an experiment. Someone makes the claim that they can do something better, faster and cheaper. Have them do that thing and compare it to the thing it is replacing. So what happened?
Elizabeth Holmes told the Walgreens executive that there was no machine available to do the test. The experiment was abandoned and never attempted at a later date. How, you ask, did a company like Walgreens, the FDA and $10 billion dollars worth of investors not do this test? Select one of the 272 blood tests and compare that test to the hospital version of the test. Never happened.
The reason the test was never done was because cargo cults do not understand the scientific method. In Elizabeth Holmes the investors, partners and fellow executives had a superstar. She was pretty, young, smart, charismatic and a great spokesman for the narrative. It was, after all, her narrative. She started the company with the narrative and began working her way backwards. When the obvious experiment was proposed, she nipped it in the bud. She did not even think such an experiment would ever be done.
In my Biotech experience, on two occasions, I had been tasked with improving a protein purification yield. If I was getting 1 gram per liter, I was to get more than 1 gram per liter. Pretty simple. The only problem was no one above me knew what the yield was. They told me to improve something without knowing what that something was. That is precisely the problem of Theranos. All of that money, all of those high powered board members, all of those employees and no one thought to test the test.