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Theranos: the latest news about the controversial blood-testing startup

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Theranos, a blood-testing startup that's been valued at $9 billion, has recently drawn criticism for using unvetted proprietary tech, misleading public officials, and using a regulatory loophole to avoid getting its tests approved by the FDA. Now, regulators are considering banning Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes from owning and operating a lab for at least two years.

  • Theranos co-founder Elizabeth Holmes has reported to prison.

    Elizabeth Holmes will begin serving her 11-year federal prison sentence for defrauding investors in her blood testing company. She is still appealing her conviction.

    John Carreyrou, whose Wall Street Journal article seemed to initiate her undoing, tweeted the video of her walking in with the caption “Bad Blood, the final final chapter.”

  • Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes must report to prison on May 30th.

    US District Court Judge Edward Davila has denied Holmes’ request to stay out of prison while she appeals her fraud conviction and 11 year sentence, saying she must report to prison by 2PM ET on May 30th, 2023.

    Separately, a ruling on Monday set the restitution owed by Holmes and former Theranos CEO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani at $452 million. Despite the years and the dollars, however, as Elizabeth Lopatto wrote last year: Elizabeth Holmes’ verdict won’t change Silicon Valley.

    The victims owed restitution by Holmes and Balwani.
    The victims owed restitution by Holmes and Balwani.
    Image: US District Court
  • Judge denies Elizabeth Holmes’ latest attempt to stay out of jail.

    Judge Edward Davila denied the Theranos founder’s request to go free while appealing her fraud conviction(s), according to a report by NPR.

    Holmes’ 11-year sentence is scheduled to begin on April 27th. However, as Yahoo Finance points out, the  9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco could decide that she can remain free on bail for now.

    Although the Court finds that Ms. Holmes is not a flight risk or a danger to the safety of the community, it is unable to find that she has raised a “substantial question of law or fact” that if “determined favorably to her on appeal would be likely to result in a reversal or an order for a new trial.”
    Image: US District Court, San Jose
  • The judge who sentenced Elizabeth Holmes explains the reasoning behind his decision.

    In November, Judge Edward Davila sentenced Theranos co-founder Elizabeth Holmes to 135 months, or just over 11 years, in prison for defrauding investors.

    NPR reporter Bobby Allyn points out that he’s issued his full order explaining the decision (PDF), noting that Holmes was sentenced based on only about 10 percent of the money Theranos actually raised.



  • Richard Lawler

    Nov 8, 2022

    Richard Lawler

    Elizabeth Holmes's bid for a retrial has been denied.

    As reported by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, the Theranos co-founder’s sentencing is now scheduled for November 18th.

    Holmes was found guilty on three counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

  • Nicole Wetsman

    Jul 7, 2022

    Nicole Wetsman

    Sunny Balwani found guilty of defrauding Theranos investors and patients

    Jury Deliberates In Criminal Trial Of Former Theranos President Sunny Balwani
    Sunny Balwani, former Theranos president

    Ramesh Balwani, the former business partner and romantic interest of Elizabeth Holmes, defrauded investors and patients of the blood testing company Theranos, a jury found today.

    Balwani, who goes by Sunny, faced 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was found guilty of all counts and faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.

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  • Mariya Abdulkaf

    Jan 7, 2022

    Mariya Abdulkaf

    Is Elizabeth Holmes’ guilty verdict a wake-up call for startups?

    After a long trial, former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes has been found guilty of four out of the 11 charges brought against her, including three counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud investors in her now-defunct blood testing company. The verdict caps a journey filled with both promises and disappointments, one that ultimately led to the downfall of what could have been one of the most successful companies, and entrepreneurs, to come out of Silicon Valley in over a decade.

    While the verdict is a milestone in holding startup founders accountable for false promises, it actually further complicates the difference between fraud and the “fake it til you make it” mindset of many startups. The Verge’s deputy editor Liz Lopatto breaks down the outcome of the trial and what to expect in the months to come. With Holmes’ business partner, Sunny Balwani, getting ready to stand trial later this month, the story is far from over.

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  • Elizabeth Holmes’ verdict won’t change Silicon Valley

    There is no doubt in my mind that former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes will appeal the four charges she was convicted of: conspiracy to defraud investors and wire fraud. She still has the Silicon Valley mindset, after all: reality can be bent to your will. But what have we learned from the Theranos trial? Almost nothing.

    Holmes was found guilty on four of 11 counts after about 50 hours of deliberation. Those counts could be grouped, roughly, into defrauding patients and defrauding investors. The jury found her not guilty of defrauding patients or conspiracy to defraud patients.

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  • Elizabeth Holmes found guilty of defrauding investors

    Elizabeth Holmes deliberately misled investors about the capabilities of the blood testing technology at Theranos and is guilty of three counts of wire fraud, a jury found today. She is also guilty of conspiracy to defraud investors with her co-defendant, Sunny Balwani.

    She faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the counts. The jury found her not guilty of two counts of defrauding patients and not guilty of conspiracy to defraud patients. The jury did not return a verdict on three more counts of defrauding investors.

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  • Elizabeth Lopatto

    Sep 17, 2021

    Elizabeth Lopatto

    How bad were Elizabeth Holmes’ 1AM emails?

    Elizabeth Holmes Theranos Trial Continues In California
    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Today, we had the first direct link between the problems in Theranos’ labs and Elizabeth Holmes. Former manager of assay systems Surekha Gangakhedkar’s job was preparing blood tests for use in patients. The system was unreliable; describing herself as “stressed and unhappy and concerned with the way the launch was going,” Gangakhedkar quit.

    Gangakhedkar met with Holmes to explain why she was resigning: she didn’t think the Edisons were good enough for patient use. Holmes told her Theranos had “promised to deliver to the customers and didn’t have much of a choice,” except to go ahead with the launch, Gangakhedkar testified.

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  • Elizabeth Lopatto

    Sep 16, 2021

    Elizabeth Lopatto

    How do you cross-examine a whistleblower?

    Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Attends Criminal Trial
    David Odisho / Getty

    Erika Cheung, who took the stand yesterday for her direct testimony, which continued today, is known for being one of John Carreyrou’s sources for his blockbuster article about Theranos. You know, the article that’s part of the reason we are now witnessing US v. Elizabeth Holmes. (Holmes is on trial for several counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.) 

    Cheung is, famously, one of the people who blew the whistle on Holmes. She’s even given a TED talk about it. The other major source for Carreyrou was her friend, Tyler Shultz, who also worked at Theranos and was the grandson of one of the board members. He is expected to testify later in the trial, since he tried to bring problems in the lab to Holmes’ attention.

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  • Elizabeth Lopatto

    Sep 15, 2021

    Elizabeth Lopatto

    The Holmes trial gets into the Excel nitty-gritty

    Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Attends Criminal Trial
    David Odisho / Getty

    It was around the time that the defense counsel referred to “deferred revenue” that I began to feel genuinely bad for the members of the jury in the wire fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes. 

    Tuesday’s testimony involved the nuances of accounting, how quality control works in labs, and way too many Excel spreadsheets. I get it — you have to show the financials to show that Theranos was in a tricky financial position. And you have to show how the labs were failing in order to establish that they were failing and that Holmes knew it. But go through this too fast, and you risk confusing people.

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  • Fraud, or just a failure? Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’s trial opening arguments

    Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Attends Criminal Trial
    Elizabeth Holmes, outside the courtroom
    David Odisho / Getty

    Would you rather be a failure or a fraud? Judging by the opening statements in Elizabeth Holmes’ wire fraud trial, those seem to be Holmes’ options. 

    Here’s Robert Leach, assistant U.S. attorney, who is prosecuting the case against Holmes: “This is a case about fraud, about lying and cheating to get money,” Leach says. “That’s a crime on Main Street and a crime in Silicon Valley.” But according to Lance Wade, Holmes’ attorney, Holmes is just another failed startup leader: “In the end, Theranos failed. And Ms. Holmes walked away with nothing. But failure is not a crime.”

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  • Theranos’ greatest invention was Elizabeth Holmes

    Photo illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge | Photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock

    When I say “Elizabeth Holmes,” a character probably comes to mind: wispy bleach-blonde hair, black turtleneck, thin, white, unusually low voice, unblinking gaze. In most of her magazine covers, she’s holding a tiny vial meant to contain the “few drops of blood” needed for her company’s finger-prick blood tests. 

    “When I finally connected with what Elizabeth fundamentally is, I realized that I could have just as well been looking into the eyes of a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates,” Theranos advisor Channing Robertson, a Stanford chemical engineering professor, told Fortune in 2014. “She has sometimes been called another Steve Jobs, but I think that’s an inadequate comparison,” former defense secretary and Theranos board member William Perry told The New Yorker the same year. (Perry knew Jobs.) “She has a social consciousness that Steve never had. He was a genius; she’s one with a big heart.”

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  • Richard Lawler

    Aug 28, 2021

    Richard Lawler

    Elizabeth Holmes’ defense likely includes testimony accusing her ex-partner of abuse

    Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes...
    Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes leaves the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building with her defense team in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
    Photo by Nhat V. Meyer/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

    With just a few days left until Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes faces criminal fraud charges at trial, newly unsealed court documents (via NPR) reveal evidence that her lawyers may cite in her defense.

    If you don’t remember the details from the scandal as described in a book, documentary, and more than one podcast series, Theranos told investors it developed revolutionary blood test technology capable of amazing results based on just a few small drops. Theranos had been valued at as much as $9 billion before reports exposed its inaccurate results and use of modified machines by other companies to perform crucial testing instead of its own Edison device. The company folded in 2016, and federal prosecutors charged Holmes and Balwani (pdf) two years later for wire fraud, listing investors and patients as victims of their deception.

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  • Jun 30, 2019

    Andrew Liptak

    Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will go on trial next summer

    Photo: Drew Kelly / Sundance Institute

    Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of blood-testing startup Theranos, will officially go to trial in San Jose next year, according to the US District Judge Edward J. Davila of the Northern District of California.

    Federal prosecutors indicted Holmes and the company’s former president and COO, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani last summer, charging the pair with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. The pair face 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

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  • Sep 5, 2018

    Angela Chen

    Theranos is finally shutting down

    2015 Glamour Women of the Year Awards - Show
    Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Glamour

    It may have been surprising to hear that blood-testing startup Theranos was technically still around, even though it was a fraud that put people in real danger. But per an email chief executive officer David Taylor sent to shareholders, Theranos will finally close.

    Taylor starts the email by saying that he “write[s] with difficult news about the future of the company,” though it is hard to believe that any shareholder would be blindsided by this development. Taylor, who is also general counsel, became CEO after previous CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes was indicted for fraud by federal prosecutors. When the founder of the company is facing criminal charges and potentially 20 years in prison, the “difficult” news should at least be expected.

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  • Jun 15, 2018

    Angela Chen

    Federal prosecutors indict Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes for fraud

    Fortune Global Forum - Day 1
    Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune

    Federal prosecutors have indicted disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and former president and chief operating officer, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, for defrauding customers and investors, calling their actions a “corporate conspiracy” that “endangered health and lives.”

    Holmes has also stepped down as CEO from the blood-testing company, once a Silicon Valley darling valued at $9 billion. Starting in 2015, a series of articles in The Wall Street Journal by investigative journalist John Carreyrou revealed that the company was peddling a technology — blood tests with a simple finger prick — that did not actually work. The company has been forced to void or correct nearly a million blood-test results. The company has since become an example of the dangers of Silicon Valley hype and Holmes, once a billionaire, now has a net worth close to zero.

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  • Theranos will close labs and fire 340 employees

    Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

    Theranos will fire 340 employees — about 40 percent of its workforce — in California, Arizona and Pennsylvania, as well as shuttering all its clinical labs and Theranos Wellness centers, the company said in a statement today. The troubled start-up appears to be moving back to doing more research and development.

    The startup was once a poster-child for Silicon Valley, with Holmes gracing the covers of many publications, including Inc, Forbes, Fortune, and The New York Times’ T Magazine. It earned a $9 billion valuation, largely on the strength of a pin-prick test that used its proprietary technology to draw small amounts of blood from a fingerstick, rather than using a large needle to draw from the vein. Only one of its tests was approved by the US FDA — the rest were sold through a regulatory loophole — but it was able to sell its products at 40 Walgreens stores.

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  • Rachel Becker

    Aug 31, 2016

    Rachel Becker

    Theranos hit by another setback as it withdraws request for Zika test approval

    Mike Windle/Getty Images

    Troubled diagnostic company Theranos suffered another blow as it withdrew its request for federal approval of a new Zika virus blood test, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Food and Drug Administration is said to have turned up evidence that Theranos began testing the diagnostic without the necessary protections for human subjects of research.

    Over the past year, scandal has dogged the startup that was once valued at $9 billion. In May, the company threw out tens of thousands of results from its Edison blood-testing machine and issued corrected lab test reports to patients. But in an attempt to get back on its feet, the company unveiled its latest miniaturized diagnostic device — called the miniLab — that it says will be able to run several tests on blood samples, including a test for Zika. Theranos had already begun trials on blood samples collected in the Dominican Republic when it announced the miniLab earlier this month.

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  • Rich McCormick

    Aug 2, 2016

    Rich McCormick

    Theranos ignores scandal and shows off new blood-testing machine

    Mike Windle/Getty Images

    Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes made an appearance at a scientific convention today, but it wasn't to allay the many concerns about the company's previous blood tests, the results of which were thrown out earlier this year. Holmes also chose not to address the federal criminal and civil investigations against her company, instead announcing a new Theranos product: a blood-testing kit that could serve as the successor to its controversial Edison machines.

    By presenting data publicly before the new machine is available, Theranos is changing its approach, lifting the veil of secrecy that it kept around its operations since its foundation in 2003. However, the clinical data presented onstage was not independently verified, relying instead on Theranos' own studies, and the miniLab machine has yet to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Only one Theranos blood testing product has been approved by the FDA so far — a herpes test — while the company's others were covered by a regulatory loophole that allowed them to be sold as lab-developed tests.

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  • Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes banned from operating labs

    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of blood-testing company Theranos, has been banned from operating labs in the US for two years, the Silicon Valley company announced in a press release. Theranos has been fined an undisclosed amount of money. The announcement is vindication for The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on irregularities at the company eight months ago.

    Only one of Theranos's blood tests received federal approval. The rest — more than 80 — were sold under a regulatory loophole as lab-developed tests. So the supervising agency for most of the tests wasn't the US Food and Drug Administration — it was, instead, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That's the agency that imposed the sanctions.

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  • James Vincent

    Jun 13, 2016

    James Vincent

    Walgreens dumps Theranos’ questionable blood tests from its stores

    Kimberly White/Getty Images

    Walgreens has announced that it's terminating its partnership with blood-testing startup Theranos. All 40 of the "Theranos Wellness Centers" in Walgreen's Arizona drugstores will be shut down immediately, closing what has been a primary link between Theranos and would-be consumers, and further wounding the troubled startup's revenue.

    "In light of the voiding of a number of test results, and as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has rejected Theranos’ plan of correction and considers sanctions, we have carefully considered our relationship with Theranos and believe it is in our customers’ best interests to terminate our partnership," said Walgreens senior vice president Brad Fluegel in a press statement.

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  • Jamieson Cox

    Jun 9, 2016

    Jamieson Cox

    Jennifer Lawrence will star in a movie about Theranos

    Brad Barket/Getty Images

    It's hard to imagine a core duo better suited to bring the Theranos saga to the big screen. Holmes is one of the most fascinating people to emerge out of Silicon Valley in recent memory, a confident and precise leader whose star rose dramatically before her company fell apart; Lawrence has the chops to bring her to life. McKay's work on The Big Short proved he can juggle comedy, drama, and complicated conceptual fodder with relative ease. And the company's story has been filled with twists and turns right out of an original script: evading federal regulators! Years of voided test results! Government bans! Compelling dramas have been spun out of much less. The project's still early in development — it doesn't have a release date, a title, or any other announced cast members — but it's one worth watching as it develops.

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  • Theranos hit with second class action lawsuit, one day after the first

    Fortune Global Forum - Day 1
    Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune

    Theranos was hit with a second class action lawsuit today — one day after an angry customer filed the first.

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