Stealth Startups don’t Belong in Healthcare

Stealth mode for tech startups are not unusual. Many tech teams are known to work in secrecy for months, even years, with the goal of a monumental advancement in tech that would bring in massive revenue in perpetuity.

This practice does seem to work for more than a few, probably the reason why some have attempted to translate the practice to healthcare. Calico is one such startup. It’s a Google run startup that’s ‘tackling aging’. This report from vox, indicates that Calico is super secretive about its research and no one knows why.

We’ve been here before

Theranos was once a darling of the startup world. It was, just like calico is now, very secretive about its work. Theranos claimed that it had developed unique technology to enable it analyse a drop of blood and provide as much information as labs that collect many tubes of blood. Theranos has since been shown to be a house of cards that spun a narrative very far from the truth.

Theranos was able to get away with lies for a long period because of their stealthy science. They allegedly defrauded investors of millions of dollars and more importantly, put people’s lives at risk with poorly validated blood results. A very poor outcome.

Openness saves lives quicker

Transparency and openness is a basic tenet of scientific research.There are many reasons why this is. One such is the story demonstrated by this logo.

Cochrane logo — accessed at

Cochrane is a Non-profit consisting of thousands of volunteers that organize medical research in a systematic way to facilitate choices based on the best medical evidence. The logo is formed by two ‘C’ shapes with lines within it. These lines are known as a forest plot.

The horizontal lines each represent the results of one study, while the diamond represents the combined result. This being the best estimate of whether the treatment being studied is effective or harmful. The forest plot within the Cochrane logo is that of studies on giving steroids to women about to give birth to premature babies. Many studies had been done but it wasn’t until this Cochrane review confirmed it as beneficial that the practice become more widely accepted.

Many more babies are alive today because of the Cochrane review of all the studies done on the subject. This would never have happened had all the researchers been stealthily working in silos. Every researcher is rightly expected to publish his/her results. It aids scientific discovery and speeds up the process of knowledge advancement. Secrets slow progress.

There is no simply no place for stealth in science, especially in healthcare related research. Startups need to leave their cloaks and daggers at the door when entering the world of healthcare.

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