Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 346
John Carreyrou's Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup discusses the story of Theranos, a startup that claimed to build a machine that could run diagnostic tests with a single drop of blood. Its founder Elizabeth Holmes was a nineteen-year-old student at Stanford who approached her professor claiming that she has an idea for a product that can identify blood type and diseases non-invasively.The reality was massive fraud.
In the novel's beginning, Theranos is pitching a product to the pharmaceutical company Novartis in Switzerland. Theranos was founded by Elizabeth Holmes who dropped out of Stanford and founded the company in 2003 with the support of one Channing Robertson, a member of the Stanford Engineering Department. The brainchild of Theranos engineer Tony Nugent, "the Edison" was the robot machine that would run tests on blood.
The company gained financial backing from major corporations like Walgreens and Safeway, while publishing minimal results and maintaining a highly secretive environment, firing employees who questioned practices or asked too many question. Holmes became romantically involved with Sunny Balwani, the COO of Theranos. The two routinely lied to investors as well as federal heath officials. While well intentioned, the Edison had extreme problems concerning the Edison was not prepared to enter the commercial market, as it required especially dilute blood samples and could only work at certain temperatures without delivering erroneous results.
In 2014, when the company was featured in an article in The New Yorker, a pathologist named Adam Clapper investigated the company's claims. When he published his suspicions on a personal blog, The Wall Street Journal undertook an investigation of its own. This led to journalist (and author) Carreyrou being assigned to investigations, which involved tracking down and interviewing former employees, doctors, and patients. Meanwhile, Holmes and Balwani employed a fierce lawyer (David Boies) to deter investigators and even try to stop Carreyrou's own investigation. Nevertheless, after a decisive investigation on the part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that exposed the faulty devices, Holmes broke up with Balwani, faced mounting lawsuits, and shut down Theranos in 2017.
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