A physician recounts his journey from working in the academic world to running a medical device company that revolutionized cancer diagnostics.
Elizabeth Holmes made headlines when she revealed that her company, Theranos, had created a device she claimed could use a single drop of blood to diagnose hundreds of diseases. Holmes turned out to be a fraud, but debut author Grogan was the real deal. In the early 1980s, he was employed as a pathologist at the University of Arizona, where he and his colleagues began developing a device that could automate the labor-intensive process of diagnosing cancer cells. Through trial and error over many years, the author and his team created a functional device and then proceeded to build a highly successful company, Ventana Medical Systems, which was eventually acquired by Roche, as he recounts in this gripping memoir. Grogan turns what could be a dry, dull story of tinkering in the lab and meeting with investors into compelling drama by weaving in personal anecdotes from both his youth, when his father was a CIA operative stationed in the Middle East and Africa, and his own career. Stories of real-life patients helped by Ventana’s device clearly illustrate the impact of the author’s invention. The book opens with the doctor sitting in a hospital with his elderly mother, who had just been informed that her breast cancer had returned. As she convalesced, her son regaled her with stories from his life and shared the tale of the company he helped found. The author’s accomplishments are impressive, and he doesn’t hesitate to tout them, likening himself or the Ventana team to Darwin and Edison. But he gives credit to the many people who contributed to the company’s success, from the highflying venture capitalists who took a chance on Ventana to the lab techs and other employees who helped build the business and keep it running smoothly. Eventually, Grogan’s engaging odyssey comes full circle as the machines he helped create are used to correctly diagnose both his and his wife’s cancers.
An entertaining memoir that sheds light on a powerful yet little-known invention.