Bad Blood, which will be directed by The Big Short filmmaker Adam McKay is being backed by Apple Original Films and will document Holmes’ spectacular rise and fall, one that began with the promise of revolutionizing the health care system and ended with the collapse of her company and a trial for fraud.
What Did Elizabeth Holmes Do?
The story of Holmes and her ill-fated health technology company, Theranos is fascinating fodder — a true story that already reads like a movie script.
As someone who was very afraid of needles and getting blood drawn, Holmes had the vision to create the technology test for thousands of different illnesses with a single drop of blood, obtained painlessly from a patient.
A former student at Stanford University, Holmes created Theranos in 2003 and became connected with various venture capitalists who could help fund her dream. Her pitch was that the technology, which she said could deliver results in just hours, would be revolutionary, slashing costs in the $75 billion-a-year blood testing industry. Investors were so convinced of her mission that they coughed up USD $400 million in venture capital. Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch was among her backers.
The media lapped it up too and in 2013, Theranos testing became available in Walgreens pharmacies across America and the company was valued at USD $9 billion. Holmes was also named by Forbes as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire.
So, What Went Wrong?
The cracks began to show when journalists (like Carreyrou) and health researchers started to investigate just how plausible Holmes’ grand claims were. As it turned out, they weren’t viable at all and Holmes, knowing that her machines did not work as intended, was not only defrauding her investors but putting thousands of lives at risk.
Through Carreyrou’s extensive investigation for the Wall Street Journal, he eventually discovered and reported that Holmes’ company was hardly even using the machines they had claimed could revolutionise the health industry but relying mostly on older technology from other companies for the bulk of its testing.
One Theranos employee even reported that Theranos had been playing the system and “failing to report test results that raised questions about the precision of the Edison system.”
By 2016, Forbes revised its estimate of Holmes’s net worth to zero. In 2018, the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged Theranos and Holmes with deceiving investors by “massive fraud” through false or exaggerated claims about the accuracy of the company’s blood-testing technology. A federal grand jury went on to indict Holmes and former Theranos chief operating officer (and Holmes’ ex-boyfriend) Ramesh Balwani on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for distributing blood tests with falsified results to consumers.
A documentary, also based on Carreyrou’s book, was made for HBO and featured former Theranos employees relaying information about the shady inner-workings of Theranos and even being tailed once ended their employment to intimidate them into staying quiet about what they knew.
Where Is Holmes Now?
Holmes, who is now 37 and a mother to a young son, has been found guilty on four of 11 charges of fraud, pertaining to her activities as the founder and CEO of Theranos. She pleaded not guilty to all charges of defrauding investors and patients through Theranos and faces 20 years in prison.
“She chose fraud over business failure,” prosecutor Jeff Schenk said in his closing arguments. “She chose to be dishonest with investors and patients. That choice was not only callous, it was criminal.”
Holmes’ lawyers argued that Balwani sexually abused and emotionally controlled her during Theranos’ tenure, thereby impairing her mental state.