(CNN Business)To many people a decade or so ago, Elizabeth Holmes was the founder of high-flying blood-testing startup Theranos. To Daniel Edlin, she was the sister of his Duke University college buddy, Christian.
Edlin met Holmes through Christian and later joined Holmes’ brother working for Theranos as a senior product manager in September 2011. He was entrusted with key assignments, including the company’s critical Walgreens partnership and organizing tours of its headquarters for investors, board members, business partners and other VIP guests.Now, Edlin is testifying in the criminal case against Holmes over allegations she knowingly misled patients, doctors and investors with claims that her startup’s technology could reliably and accurately test for a range of conditions using just a few drops of blood taken by finger stick. (Holmes has pleaded not guilty and faces up to 20 years in prison.)Edlin, who was first called Friday as a witness for the government and is expected to resume his testimony Tuesday, said he was at times asked by Holmes to make changes ahead of tours of the Theranos headquarters, including hiding certain areas of its research and development lab from important visitors. He said partitions were sometimes used to conceal areas where Theranos’ devices were located. What we learned this week in the trial of Elizabeth HolmesOn one occasion in 2013, Edlin said he helped set up a display of about 10 to 15 Theranos miniLab devices, one of its blood analyzer machines, in a room adjacent to the clinical lab ahead of a tour. The display was then taken down soon after the tour ended. He testified that he learned in 2016 that the miniLab device had never been used for patient blood testing. (Edlin also said he did not recall ever giving a tour of the clinical lab itself, which is where patient samples were tested.)Read MoreAs the Wall Street Journal would reveal in a series of reports beginning in October 2015, Theranos’ claims about its technological capabilities were vastly overstated. The company was relying on blood testing devices manufactured by third-parties rather than its own devices, which were only being used on a fraction of tests, with questions about their accuracy and reliability. Edlin’s testimony suggests the company may have tried to give high-profile visitors a very different impression.Former Defense Secretary James Mattis invested $85,000 in Theranos and let Elizabeth Holmes take his bloodAccording to a court filing last month, Edlin was also involved in the company’s communications with the US Department of Defense — a relationship that the prosecution has zeroed in on as one of the ways Holmes allegedly misled investors and business partners. Former executives for Walgreens and Safeway testified they’d been told Theranos had been doing work with the Defense Department and that its devices were in use in medical evacuation units. But former Defense Secretary and Theranos board member James Mattis testified he was unaware of its devices ever having been deployed in such a manner. (Edlin has yet to testify about this subject.)Edlin said he had initially been excited to join Theranos. He and several other friends from Duke took part in a group interview before being offered jobs, and he stayed at the company for more than five years. He left the company in December, 2016, more than a year after the Journal began publishing stories raising concerns about the company’s technology.The rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes: A timelineEdlin, who was on the stand for roughly an hour before court recessed for the weekend, testified that he left Theranos in part because he “no longer believed based on what I was seeing that the company was capable of standing behind the claims it had been making about its technology.” Edlin, who reported to Holmes for a time, also shed light on what it was like to work for her and Theranos. He said information was siloed inside the company and that he was instructed by Christian, Holmes and former COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani not to share details about what was being worked on outside of the team directly involved because it was considered confidential. (Balwani is facing the same charges as Holmes, has pleaded not guilty and is set to go to trial in early 2022.) Edlin also testified that Holmes was “in the office all the time, really. From early morning until late in the evening.”