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Troubled Theranos' President Is Stepping Down

Sunny Balwani will retire amidst federal probes of the blood-testing Silicon Valley startup's fundraising and operations.

Nancy Crotti

A top executive at Theranos is departing as part of a reorganization of the embattled blood-testing company.

Company president and COO Sunny Balwani, who is in charge of Theranos' Newark, CA, laboratory, is going to retire, according to a company statement. Theranos will also add three members to its board of directors.

CMS has threatened to ban Balwani and Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes from the laboratory business if operations at the Newark lab don't improve. The SEC and the U.S. Attorney's Officefor the Northern District of California are working on separate investigations into Theranos, seeking to clarify whether the company deceived investors and regulators, according to the Wall Street Journal. Theranos has said it is cooperating with the investigations.

Balwani worked in the software and technology industries before joining Theranos as an advisor to Holmes in 2009. He will soon turn 51 and plans to officially retire, according to Theranos spokesperson Brooke Buchanan.

"I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to contribute to Theranos' mission to make healthcare accessible through its technology and products," Balwani said in the statement. "I will continue to be the company's biggest advocate and look forward to seeing Theranos' innovations reach the world."

"This was actually planned on the books for over a year now," Buchanan said of the reorganization and Balwani's departure. "He was doing the job of many and now we're separating those positions out."

Theranos is seeking a new chief medical officer to oversee its laboratory operations, most of which are located in Arizona. It also wants to hire a chief operating officer to manage the business end, Buchanan said.

The company has also added three board members whom it said "bring a wealth of scientific, medical and executive leadership" to Theranos.  They include Fabrizio Bonanni, who had senior operating roles at Amgen Inc. and at Baxter International Inc.; William H. Foege, MD, epidemiologist and former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Richard M. Kovacevich, former chief executive officer of Wells Fargo & Co. Foege and Kovacevich previously served on Theranos' board of directors before joining its board of counselors, an advisory group. Foege also belongs to the company's scientific and medical advisory board.

"We're essentially growing our bench, getting folks with a lot of experience to take the company to another level as we grow in scale," Buchanan said.

The Silicon Valley startup became well-known for its blood-testing technology, which promised to perform multiple diagnostic tests with a single drop of blood. Following previously released CMS reports stating that the company may be putting patients in danger and that its test results are erratic, the company has been on the defensive publicly.

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