Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, was found guilty of four counts at the end of the lengthy Silicon Valley trial. The jury found her not guilty of four other criminal charges. On the remaining three counts, the jury remained suspended. Holmes now faces up to 20 years in prison.
The 37-year-old businesswoman has been accused of defrauding investors and patients over a blood-testing technology that was initially hailed as a medical revolution. Holmes promised that she would be able to screen for hundreds of health problems with just a few finger-prick drops.
Theranos has raised more than $900 million from a long list of elite investors, including billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and businessman Larry Ellison. But most investors were unaware that Theranos technology continued to produce misleading results that led the company to secretly rely on traditional blood tests. Evidence presented at the trial also showed that Holmes lied about alleged deals Theranos made with major drug companies, such as Pfizer, and the US military. In 2015, a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal and a regulatory review of Theranos lab exposed potentially serious flaws in the company’s technology.
The Theranos story is the archetypal story of the unscrupulous race to technological innovation that swept Silicon Valley in the early 2000s. This was a time when many dreamed of imitating Apple founder Steve Jobs, donning black crew-neck sweaters like him, and speaking in messianic messages from tech gurus. One was Elizabeth Ann Holmes, born in Washington 37 years ago, half of which are studies at Stanford. In 2003, at the age of nineteen, after an early collaboration as a chemical engineering student with the Singapore Genomics Institute for blood tests, in the middle of the SARS epidemic, Holmes began his astonishing ascent. That year, he filed his first patent: a patch with some kind of computer built in, capable of monitoring all patient parameters in real time and delivering drugs.
Driven by Jobs’ impetus, the young student was determined to make her mark on the lives of millions of people: he invented something that would save millions of Americans a lot of dollars by cutting the costs of blood tests, which are too large in the United States. Average. Dubbed Real Time Cures, the project is a medical technology startup that has promised to extrapolate up to two hundred data from a single finger prick.
Despite the skepticism of the academic world, the girl managed to find generous financiers. The startup changed its name to Theranos, born from the union between the words treatment and diagnosis. More than six million dollars have come from donors, and more will come in the following years. It sounded like the story of a classic American dream turned into a business. But there was a detail that should have aroused suspicion: Over time, Theranos gave no results and did not give interviews.
2013 was the year of the great turning point or the great delusion: Holmes announced a partnership with the US pharmacy chain Walgreens, where blood tests can be performed at a competitive price and with just a few drops. A revolutionary saving of time, money and fluids. Holmes became a world star, glorified by the most prestigious magazines, and ended up on the front pages of Forbes, who in 2015 was elected “Woman of the Year” by Glamor magazine, the idol of thousands of students. But that was also the moment when it all fell apart. A few months later, former employees of the Wall Street Journal revealed an inconvenient truth, consisting of tampered tests, failed experiments, and departments operating in complete isolation. The scoop had a devastating effect.
Federal agencies have confirmed flaws in the system. The real procedures of analysis, which would emerge from the investigation, were traditional, but they were laid down as outgrowths of the great revolutionary idea. Walgreens exited the deal, and Theranos was banned from drawing blood for two years. Now has arrived the verdict that officially put an end to ambitious careers in health care, the great innovator who ended up being convicted of a crime as old as the world: fraud.
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