Theranos' Elizabeth Holmes is going to trial on August 31, 2021. She faces up to 20 years in prison if she's found guilty of conspiracy and fraud for her lead role in the Theranos scandal.
Elizabeth is the founder and former CEO of Theranos, a blood-testing tech start-up that received huge investment and hype until it was exposed that the technology supposedly used to get results was in fact entirely unreliable.
The start-up was to be a game-changer for countless people across the globe. Considering that a third of all midlife people have one of these chronic health conditions, blood tests are a standard part of life for most of us.
Elizabeth joined the legions of women making strides in traditionally male industries. Just like COVID-19 vaccine creator Sarah Gilbert, who recently had a Barbie doll made in her honor which celebrates girls and women in scientific careers. However, it has become clear that all wasn't what it seemed when it came to Elizabeth and the company with which she found her fortune.
She and the story of her rise and fall have captured attention across the globe. A podcast about her, Dropout, became a global success and there have also been books and true crime documentaries made about the former tech superstar.
In the ramp-up to her trial, there have been many setbacks. Most recently, her trial had to be put back as she and her partner Billy Evans welcomed their first child, William Holmes Evans, on July 10, 2021 in Redwood City, California.
So who is Elizabeth Holmes and what is the Theranos scandal?
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Who is Elizabeth Holmes?
Elizabeth was at one point one of the brightest stars in the tech world. She founded Theranos, which was at one point valued at approximately $9billion. in 2015, Forbes (opens in new tab) listed her as the youngest self-made female billionaire on the planet.
Owing to her rise in the tech world at such a young age and her love of black turtle necks, many compared her to Apple founder Steve Jobs.
Growing up, her father worked for USAID and she claimed that was what made her decide to merge tech and business with lending a helping hand. Explaining her aim when the company she said at the time to Forbes, "Building a business could be a vehicle for making a difference in the world."
The former businesswoman showed great promise from a young age and enrolled in Stanford's chemical engineering company, which she later dropped out of in 2003.
Instead, aged only 19-years-old, she used her tuition money as seed funding for a consumer healthcare technology company. The company was based on the idea of performing blood tests using only a tiny amount of blood, such as a finger prick, instead of taking blood samples with needles.
Despite the company's initial roaring success, everything began to fall apart in 2015 when a series of journalistic, scientific, and federal investigations led to her being indicted in 2018.
Health is a basic human right, for every single person. #HumanRightsDay pic.twitter.com/RNV8jqYwEfDecember 11, 2015
What is Elizabeth Holmes' net worth?
Only a year after Elizabeth topped the Forbes list of America's richest self-made women with a net worth of $4.5billion, Forbes (opens in new tab) reduced her net worth to nothing.
This was in response to the collapse of Theranos, the only source of her wealth.
What was Theranos?
Theranos was a medical tech company that claimed to have the technology that would 'democratize healthcare.' Their seemingly revolutionary method of testing blood, via a device called The Edison.
The company claimed The Edison could produce conclusive analysis from small volumes of blood, which would save both clinicians and patients time and money. Making it as easy as other simple home health checks for tracking and improving your health.
However, internal documents suggest that the technology required to support this outcome was basically absent from trials and that much of the data publicized was inaccurate.
As a matter of fact, according to prosecutors on the case, despite the company's claims that their tech was fool-proof—the failure rate was actually 51.3%, making the tests nearly completely worthless to healthcare systems and investors.
It was after a medical expert tipped off Wall Street Journal journalist John Carreyrou that they believed the Edison could not deliver on the promises of its wealthier manufacturers—that he began his investigation.
John, who wrote a book on the case called Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (opens in new tab), was bolstered by internal whistleblowers' and former employees' information on Theranos’ failed clinical trials. Owing to this, the Wall Street Journal published his findings—despite Theranos' and Elizabeth's legal teams doing their best to stop it.
Theranos and Elizabeth strenuously denied the claims and even suggested sexism was at play.
Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes punches back against the Wall Street Journal https://t.co/vHVqccuA15 pic.twitter.com/WxLVRIH4V5October 21, 2015
The Wall Street Journal investigation spurred on two years of increasingly negative press, legal woes and by 2018 a federal grand jury saw fit to indict Elizabeth and her then business partner Ramesh Balwani on wire-fraud charges.
Ramesh, who's also known as Sunny, was at one stage in a romantic relationship with Elizabeth. His trial will take place in January 2022.
When is Elizabeth Holmes' Theranos trial?
Theranos founder Elizabeth goes to trial on August 31, 2021, charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud.
Ahead of the trial, one of her attorneys Amy Saharia expressed concerns over the media attention on her client's case. She said to the judge, "When there are cases that jurors may be influenced by things such as celebrity, either a witness or the defendant’s profession or position in a community, let there be some sort of caution against that." She added, "It’s no surprise, your honor, that our client is the subject of very intense media scrutiny."
CNBC (opens in new tab)reports that a, "highly recognizable lineup of business and political figures are expected to testify, including former Theranos board members and investors such as Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch and James Mattis."
Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.
She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.
Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.
Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.
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