Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

It’s been almost six years since the first article by John Carreyrou at The Wall Street Journal on 25 October 2015 cast light on the Theranos’ troubling practices. At the time, the biotech startup was at its peak valuation of 9 billion dollars. It attracted high profile investors and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was on the cover of famous magazines, hailed as “the next Steve job” and “the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire”. She wanted to revolutionise blood testing and claimed to have done so: Theranos had developed the technology to perform all kinds of blood tests with just a prick of blood.

Yet, the technology didn’t work and the consequences of such falsehood were dire. To maintain the facade that the technology worked, Theranos misappropriated modified third party blood test machines to run the tests. Put aside the investors who invested money based on dubious and misleading claims, like the technology had been approved and deployed on various areas, Theranos’ erratic blood test results put people in jeopardy —one cancer patient in recovery was left devastated as the test indicated a cancer recurrence when there was none— that the company must voided its test results.

Following revelation after revelation, the company’s value dived from 9 billion to zero. It had now dissolved and its executives, Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, are to face criminal charges. Both deny any wrongdoing.

The Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes story is so fascinating that a feature film, starring Jennifer Lawrence, is coming. There’s already an HBO documentary on it, “The Inventor” by Alex Gibney in 2019. Commentaries on the story can be found on Youtube as well as various news outlets and publications. There is a podcast series “The Dropout” which features interviews with the company former employees, investors, and patients as well as deposition testimony from Elizabeth Holmes. John Carreyrou himself has also chronicled his investigations in Bad Blood: Secret and Lies in A Silicon Valley Startup (Google Play Book).

And the saga continues. The trial for the case against Holmes and Balwani has started on 31 August 2021.

And there are also so much development since the fall of Theranos that is to be explored in the podcast Bad Blood: The Final Chapter, hosted by John Carreyrou. By the time this blogpost is published, there are already the two episodes with the first one elaborating how Elizabeth Holmes may manipulate to gain sympathy, by getting pregnant and entering motherhood, and make a Svengali-esque type of defense. Fascinating stuff, I must say, that you should listen to.

The Dropout podcast also continues with a new season, The Dropout: Elizabeth Holmes on Trial.