Elizabeth Holmes: the resounding fall from grace of the young woman nicknamed “the new Steve Jobs”

“The youngest billionaire in the world who made herself,” according to Forbes magazine. The “next Steve Jobs” was christened Inc, another business magazine that put it on its cover.

In 2014, Elizabeth holmes, then 30 years old, he was on top of the world.

After dropping out of Stanford University, he had founded a company valued in US $ 9 billion, for allegedly causing a revolution in disease diagnosis.

With a few drops of blood, the proof Company edison Theranos it promised to quickly detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes without the need for needles.

Big shots from Henry Kissinger to Rupert Murdoch invested in her.

But by 2015, the project was beginning to show the lint, and, within a year, Holmes’s idea was seen to be false.

The technology he promoted didn’t work at all, and by 2018 the company he founded had collapsed.

Today, Holmes, 37, She faces 20 years in prison if convicted of all 12 counts of fraud. that are imputed to him.

He has never told his side of the story before.

Rupert murdoch

His trial, which begins this month – the US vs. Elizabeth Holmes, et al- will be closely monitored. He is expected to plead not guilty.

And in a twist, it emerged this weekend that her lawyers will argue that her ex-boyfriend and business partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, he sexually abused her and emotionally controlled her at the time of the alleged crimes, undermining her mental state.

Balwani, 56, who faces the same fraud charges, called the accusations “outrageous.”

It will be up to a jury to decide how compassionately or harshly to judge the woman who deceived everyone from statesmen to secretaries.

Pressure from the start

Despite being the subject of a book, an HBO documentary, and an upcoming TV series and movie, it’s still unclear why Holmes took so much risk with technology that he knew didn’t work.

Holmes grew up in a wealthy family in Washington DC, and she was an educated but withdrawn girl, according to people who knew her.

Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani

Inventor and entrepreneur Richard Fuisz, 81, speculates that there must have been immense pressure on her to be successful.

His family lived next door to Holmes’s for years, but they fell out when Theranos sued him over a patent dispute in 2011 (it was later resolved).

Holmes’s parents were for much of their careers bureaucrats on Capitol Hill (that is, the American Congress and the administrative buildings around it), but “they were very interested in status“And” they lived for connections, “Fuisz told the BBC.

His father’s great-great-grandfather was the founder of Fleischmann’s Yeast, which changed America’s bread industry, and the family was well aware of their lineage, he said.

Phyillis Gardener

At the age of nine, young Elizabeth wrote a letter to her father declaring that what she “really wanted from life was to discover something new, something that humanity did not know was possible to do.”

When he came to Stanford University in 2002 to study chemical engineering, He came up with the idea of ​​a patch that could scan the user for infections and release antibiotics as needed.

At 18, he already showed an intransigence that, apparently, would continue to promote the company that he would found the following year.

Phyllis Gardner, an expert in clinical pharmacology at Stanford, recalls discussing the idea of ​​Holmes’s skin patch and telling him it “wouldn’t work.”

“She just stared at me but it was like she didn’t see me,” Gardner tells the BBC.

And it seemed absolutely sure of her own brilliance. She was not interested in my experience and it was disturbing. ”

Meteoric rise

Months later, at 19, Holmes dropped out of Stanford and released Theranos, this time with a seemingly revolutionary way of testing blood with a simple finger prick.

Many powerful people were captivated and invested in the company without seeing audited financial accounts.

Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Holmes

US Secretary of the Treasury George Schultz, decorated Marine Corps General James Mattis (who later served in the Trump administration), and America’s wealthiest family, the Waltons, were among those who they gave their support.

This le gave credibility, as well as the way they behave.

“I knew she had this brilliant idea and that she had managed to convince all these investors and scientists,” says Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of Harvard Medical School, who joined her for lunch in 2015.

“She was sure of herself, but when I asked her several questions about her technology, she didn’t seem to understand,” adds Flier, who never formally evaluated her technology.

“It seemed a bit strange to me, but I didn’t come out thinking it was a fraud.”

Flier ended up inviting her to join the Medical School Board of Fellows, something she regrets, although Holmes was removed from office when the scandal broke.

Unreliable results

It all started fall apart in 2015 when an insider raised concerns about Theranos’ flagship test device, the Edison.

The Wall Street Journal wrote a series of damning disclosures stating that the results were unreliable and that the company had been using commercially available machines made by other manufacturers for most of its tests.

Elizabeth holmes

Lawsuits piled up, partners cut ties, and in 2016, US regulators barred Holmes from operating a blood testing service for two years.

On 2018, Theranos disbanded.

Abusive or abused?

In March of that year, Holmes settled on civil charges from financial regulators for fraudulently raising $ 700 million from investors.

But three months later it was arrested, along with Balwani, on criminal charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Prosecutors say she knowingly misled patients about the tests and grossly exaggerated the company’s performance to financial backers.

Elizabeth holmes

Holmes was released on bail and in 2019 she married William “Billy” Evans, 27, heir to the Evans Hotel Group hotel chain. They had a child in July of this year.

“I don’t think the fact that she is now a mother influences the trial, but the judge will likely take that into account if she is found guilty,” says Emily D Baker, former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney and legal commentator who is this linked to the case.

The trial

As the trial for the Theranos scandal draws near, commentators say it is remarkable how firmly she has stuck to her original story and people who knew her say they doubt she has changed.

According to court documents, Holmes’ attorneys are willing to argue that “she believed any alleged misrepresentation” about Theranos was true and that it was a “legitimate business generating value for investors.”

They are also likely to hold that the Balwani’s alleged controlling behavior “Erased his ability to make decisions,” including his ability to “deceive his victims.

They say the former chief operating officer of Theranos, who will be tried separately next year, controlled how he dressed, what he ate and who he spoke to for more than a decade.

They will also call a psychologist specializing in sexual abuse as a witness.

It is unclear whether Holmes will take the stand.

“The most difficult thing in any fraud case is show that the person tried to defraudExplains Baker.

“So prosecutors will have to use her text messages and emails and argue that she knew the technology didn’t work, but said it did.”

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