Scientists may need to spend another year cleaning up a number of jokes made about the tarnished reputation of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of blood-testing startup Theranos. On Monday, the company admitted it had been conducting its tests with devices that were “less than a decade old.” The disclosure came hours after the New York Times published a lengthy article alleging that Holmes and others mishandled customer data and had “systematically violated” federal safety rules. The Times reported that Theranos ignored warnings from investigators in September 2016 that only 10 to 15 percent of its testing on blood samples using the Edison machine had been completed without false positives. The “pointing finger of suspicion” against Theranos drew comparisons to the story of bitcoin entrepreneur Satoshi Nakamoto, who has never been publicly identified. The Times story and Theranos’ announcement resulted in instant gasps of astonishment from investors, reporters and experts who had spent years trying to build a trusting reputation for the Theranos founder.
“Not everyone has friends like me. Theranos has plenty,” said Guardian journalist Heather Stewart. “It’s not unheard of for journalists to go through stories which have sceptics lined up waiting for someone to fall on their sword.”
While Holmes’ name was less prominent than she is today, mainstream journalists who dug into her background were immersed in a gold mine of revelations that made her look even worse. A 2008 article in the Harvard Business Review described her spectacular rise from one-time Silicon Valley statistician to darling of the Silicon Valley investment community and the chief executive of Theranos, the public-speaking spectacle that she gave every year as a running act. “Perhaps,” the article posited, “she does have some ability to suss out the genius of good ideas, despite her lack of formal training.”
Read more: If you loved early Silicon Valley news, I hope this makes you happy.
Story continues below. It is excerpted from the forthcoming book “You’re Not You When You’re Angry: Stories of Emotional Contagion,” which includes conversations with many of the book’s main characters and contributors, including Bill Clinton, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Holmes, Ernest Hemingway, Barbra Streisand, Brooke Shields, Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol, Gwen Stefani, Robert Redford, Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, Magic Johnson, Tony Hawk, Roger Ebert, Matt Damon, Paul McCartney, Adam Savage, Lewis Black, Mark Zuckerberg, Julian Assange, Magic Johnson, Kate Winslet, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jim Parsons, Common, Jared Leto, Ava DuVernay, Rosario Dawson, Reggie Watts, Werner Herzog, James Cameron, Lance Armstrong, Hillary Clinton, Michael Jordan, and Bill Gates, as well as celebrity guests and others.
Author and co-author Eryn Brown and Globe and Mail contributing editor Emily Nash traced Holmes’ journey from college math professor to billionaire tech icon.