Theranos & Elizabeth Holmes Scandal: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Theranos Elizabeth Holmes Scandal

Getty Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes started her own business, Theranos, at age 19. The company, whose name combined the words “therapy” and “diagnosis”, promised to revolutionize the medical field by offering technology that could use a single drop of blood to run multiple tests simultaneously.

At its peak, the company was valued at $9 billion. Within a couple years, however, everything would change.

What do we know about Theranos and her company? What’s Holmes story? Get the details here.


1. Holmes Dropped out of Stanford University at Age 20 to Start Theranos

Holmes was born in Washington DC. Her father was a vice president at Enron, while her mother was a Congressional committee staffer.

At age 20, Holmes dropped out of Stanford University to start Theranos, a medical company that claimed they could take a single drop of blood and scan for a number of potential STDs, diseases, and conditions.

While the reality was that this was impossible, the company still flourished, with a value that soared up to $9 billion.

In 2015, Holmes was named one of the Most Influential People in the World by Time. In her prime, she also became the youngest self-made female billionaire by Forbes. After her fall from grace, however, that all changed. Within one year of receiving these accolades, Fortune would name Holmes one of the “World’s Most Disappointing Leaders”.

The deceit of Theranos will be chronicled in a new film by Adam McKay, called Bad Blood, starring Jennifer Lawrence.


2. The Man She Hired to Develop the Technology Believed It Wasn’t Feasible

In 2005, Holmes hired a scientist named Ian Gibbons to develop the technology Theranos promised.

According to Vanity Fair, not long after being hired, Gibbons deduced that Holmes’ idea wasn’t feasible. However, he tried his best– considering every possible method– to create what Holmes, and the company, was relying on.

When Gibbons learned of a partnership Theranos developed with Walgreens that promised the technology, he began to panic. His wife tells Vanity Fair that he “knew the technology wasn’t ready, nor would it likely ever be ready.”

“Ian felt like he would lose his job if he told the truth,” his wife shared with the outlet. “Ian was a real obstacle for Elizabeth. He started to be very vocal. They kept him around to keep him quiet.”

In 2013, Gibbons reportedly received a phone call from Holmes. She wanted to meet with him; he believed it had something to do with his being called to testify in a lawsuit. Inside Edition reports that the following morning, Gibbons’ wife found him after he overdosed on acetaminophen. He passed away a week later.

Holmes should have been well aware that the technology was not possible. According to someone who knew her at Stamford, when she approached professors, they told her that the Theranos technology was impossible. Phyllis Gardner, a professor of medicine at Stanford, tells Vanity Fair, “I told her, I don’t think your idea is going to work.”


3. A Wall Street Journal Article Led to The Company’s Demise

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – NOVEMBER 02: Elizabeth Holmes (L) and Alan Murray speak at the Fortune Global Forum at the Fairmont Hotel on November 2, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune)

In October 2015, the Wall Street Journal published an article that led to the company’s demise.

Inside Edition writes, “A story by reporter John Carreyrou revealed that Theranos was not using its Edison machine, but rather traditional blood testing mechanisms, as the Edison provided at times inaccurate results.”

In the piece, Carreyrou even revealed that the company used third-party devices to administer its own tests.

The man to reveal this information was whistleblower Tyler Shultz, who was the grandson of George P. Shultz, who worked on the board of directors.

After the article was published, Theranos disputed it. They said it was “factually and scientifically erroneous and grounded in baseless assertions by inexperienced and disgruntled former employees and industry incumbents.” Within one year, however, Theranos was under criminal investigation. It was also sued by Walgreens for breaches of contract.

Forbes— which had previously estimated Holmes wealth at $4.5 billion– brought that number down to zero.


4. Holmes Was Charged with Multiple Counts of Fraud for Misleading Investors in May 2018

Elizabeth Holmes, Clinton Global Initiative 2015, Elizabeth Holmes hair

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In May 2018, Holmes was charged with multiple counts of fraud for misleading investors, government officials, and consumers about the technology Theranos was using.

Reports indicate that she had as many as nine law firms on retainer “to handle the mess”, in the words of Vanity Fair.

In June, Holmes and former COO Ramesh Balwani were indicted on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for distributing blood tests with falsified results to consumers.

She is currently awaiting a criminal trial. If convicted, she could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years.


5. She Is Engaged & Living in San Francisco

Elizabeth Holmes, Mari Shriver, Vanity Fair

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According to a February profile on Holmes in Vanity Fair, she is currently living in San Francisco in a “luxury apartment.” She is engaged to a younger hospitality heir who also works in tech.

The outlet writes, “… he wears his M.I.T. signet ring on a necklace and the couple regularly post stories on Instagram professing their love for each other. She reliably looks ‘chirpy’ and ‘chipper.’ She’s also abandoned the black-turtleneck look and now dresses in athleisure, the regrettable attire of our age. Notably, she is far from a hermit.”

The outlet goes on to say that she is currently meeting with filmmakers to share her own side of the story. She also hopes to write a book.