A Lone Quote Helped Doom Once-Bright Silicon Valley Star
Vanity Fair digs into the fall of Elizabeth Holmes' Theranos
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2016 12:07 PM CDT
Updated Sep 11, 2016 3:47 PM CDT
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

(Newser) – The rise and fall of Theranos, the company that promised to "change the world" with its ability to test for all kinds of diseases from just a pinprick of blood, gets a thorough retelling in Vanity Fair. In the piece, Nick Bilton writes that founder Elizabeth Holmes created an intense culture of privacy at her company, one that prevented scientists and engineers from talking to each other about their work and that immediately quashed any internal speculation that Theranos' science might be a little iffy. In fact, Bilton reports that Holmes' own seeming inability to explain the science hurt her in a big way. He recounts how John Carreyrou, the Wall Street Journal reporter whose investigative piece doomed the company, first became suspicious when he read a quote from Holmes in which she gave an inept scientific explanation of what her company did.

For the record, that quote: “a chemistry is performed so that a chemical reaction occurs and generates a signal from the chemical interaction with the sample, which is translated into a result, which is then reviewed by certified laboratory personnel.” His resulting piece left the strong impression that Holmes was perpetrating a giant sham. (In the aftermath of the article, Holmes held a pep rally of sorts for employees, who chanted, "F--- you, Carreyrou" as their boss derided the article as false.) One disturbing part of the piece: Bilton reports that Holmes pushed ahead with her plan to set up Theranos sites at Walgreens around the US even though her own chief scientist had reservations. That scientist, Ian Gibbons, eventually committed suicide when he feared he was about to be fired, he writes. Click for the story, which details Holmes' deep reverence of Steve Jobs.)