Professor Gardner added, “And she just seemed absolutely confident of her own brilliance. She wasn’t interested in my expertise, and it was upsetting.”
Holmes dropped out of Stanford at the age of 19 and launched Theranos, a healthcare start-up, which claimed to revolutionise blood testing.
What was Theranos?
Holmes’ company, Theranos, claimed to have the breakthrough technology to enable advanced blood testing using a finger prick alone. It was inspired – in part, at least – by Holmes’ own fear of needles.
People were understandably excited about this technology – it was touted to democratise the healthcare system, enabling people to get tested at a pharmacy and analyse their results within hours.
It also drew the attention of investors, leading to the company’s meteoric rise between 2010 and 2014. US Treasury Secretary George Schultz, Rupert Murdoch and America’s wealthiest family, the Waltons, invested enormous sums of money in the business.
In 2013, according to Tatler, Theranos struck a deal with Walgreens, an American pharmacy chain, to enable customers to have their blood analysed in-store.
By the end of 2014, Theranos was valued at about $9 billion, and Holmes was worth $4.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine, making her the youngest self-made female billionaire at the time. She appeared on the covers of Forbes, Fortune and the New York Times’ T Magazine and was dubbed “the female Steve Jobs.”
What was the Theranos scandal?
Theranos began to unravel in 2015 after John Carreyrou, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the Wall Street Journal, began to investigate the company, speaking to various employees who revealed that the majority of testing was done by conventional machines rather than in Theranos’ labs.
One whistleblower claimed that its flagship testing device, The Edison, didn’t produce accurate results. After John Carreyrou’s story was published, the US financial regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, launched an investigation into Theranos.