Last year, Elizabeth Holmes – disgraced former CEO of Theranos (a blood testing start-up based in Silicon Valley) – was convicted on four out of 11 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy, and later sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.
Her case has continued to attract global headlines, with many of us tuning in to the Disney Plus adaption of the ordeal, The Dropout, starring Amanda Seyfried as Holmes. And a biopic starring Jennifer Lawrence is also on the way.
But, for the uninitiated, who actually is Elizabeth Holmes? What happened at Theranos? And where is Elizabeth Holmes now? Here’s everything you NTK about the case...
Who is Elizabeth Holmes?
Elizabeth Holmes was born on 3 February 1984 in Washington, D.C, to middle class parents. According to Business Insider, at the age of nine, she told relatives with the "utmost seriousness and determination" that she wanted to be a billionaire when she grew up – a goal that, for a short time, she achieved.
Extremely intelligent, Holmes was a straight A student – taking Mandarin lessons and even starting her own business selling computer software to China during her time at high school.
It's said that Holmes was inspired by her great-great-grandfather, a surgeon, to go into the medical field, along with the untimely (and perhaps preventable) loss of her uncle to skin cancer. However, she soon learned from an early age that she was scared of needles – another reason she claims to have been inspired to create the blood testing company, Theranos, which hoped to use a smaller lance to obtain blood.
After graduating high school, Holmes elected to study chemical engineering at prestigious US college Stanford. She dropped out during her sophomore (second) year, at 19-years-old, to concentrate on building Theranos full time.
What was Theranos?
Medical device startup, Theranos, was a blood testing company that claimed to have the technology to run over 300 tests on one machine, using a single drop of blood. It was named the Edison device, after the inventor Thomas Edison.
Theranos made a number of impressive claims about its device, including that they had been asked to provide its finger prick tests to soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Official documents provided to potential investors featured Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline logos, suggesting the medical behemoths had lent its backing to its machines.
Huge names, including media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, ploughed over $1 billion into the company in investments. On its board of directors sat two ex-Secretary of States, Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, plus former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, William Foege.
Theranos devices were even rolled out in 40 Walgreen stores – a US drugstore chain – for use by the general public in 2013, per Tatler.
There was just one problem though: *none* of Theranos’ claims were true.
In reality, the Edison devices could only run around eight tests, far from the hundreds advertised. They had not received endorsement by Pfizer or GSK, nor had they ever been deployed for use in Afghanistan.
To make matters worse, the machines in Walgreens stores were prone to reporting incorrect results, causing much emotional anguish for users.
What happened to Elizabeth Holmes?
Holmes enjoyed a meteoric rise from college dropout to Silicon Valley darling: a young, confident female entrepreneur celebrated for creating a truly exciting and innovative product with phenomenal potential to “change the world” as she was oft to claim.
At its peak, Theranos was worth $9 billion dollars and Elizabeth herself an estimated $6 billion. She travelled by private jet, graced the covers of Fortune, Forbes and Inc. magazines, and gave a TED Talk in 2014.
She was often referred to as the ‘female Steve Jobs’; a comparison she encouraged – claiming his trademark black polo neck/trouser combo as her own uniform.
But trouble stirred when one staffer, Tyler Schultz, concerned by the practices he witnessed within Theranos, called New York state’s public health lab to allege his concerns. In early 2015, that same whistleblower began leaking information to a Wall Street Journal reporter. The WSJ published an expose of the famously secretive company in October of that year – after which, the jig was up.
In 2018, Holmes was indicted on felony charges, before being charged as guilty on four counts of investor fraud in January 2022, according to the BBC. She was found innocent of four other charges and the jury failed to reach a verdict on a further three.
Where is Elizabeth Holmes now?
Now 39 years old, Elizabeth Holmes has been residing in San Francisco with her 31-year-old husband, hospitality heir William “Billy” Evans, to whom she wed in 2019. Holmes and Evans welcomed their first child in July 2021, and have since welcomed another child – which brings us on to her recent appeal.
In April 2023, Holmes appealed to the court to remain free on bail while a challenge to the original conviction was considered – but this appeal was rejected. Holmes has now appealed this decision, with her team arguing that the decision to reject it contained "numerous, inexplicable errors". As such, she'll remain free on bail until a verdict is decided.
Although it is so far unclear when that ruling will be made, if the former CEO's appeal is unsuccessful, the US District Court of California has recommended that the she serves her time at a federal prison camp in Bryan, Texas – which allows for family visitation.
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