After the viral Fyre Festival documentaries, another equally scandalous one is in the works. HBO’s The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley, by Alex Gibney, follows the story of Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes and her now-defunct biotech startup, Theranos.
Who? What? Holmes, at 19, founded Theranos in 2003. She wanted to revolutionize healthcare, pitching a method that could detect health problems with about 1/100 to 1/1,000 of the amount of blood that would ordinarily be needed, making blood-testing procedures cheaper and more convenient.
Brief summary of scandal:
- She secured investors, such as Henry Kissinger, Betsy DeVos, and Rupert Murdoch.
- In 2010, Theranos valued at $1 billion files a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission form.
- In 2013, Theranos secures a Walgreen partnership.
- Suspicions start to arise and people think Holmes’ interviews are “comically vague.”
- In 2015, Theranos is valued at $10 billion and a test for detecting herpes simplex virus 1 is approved by the FDA.
- In October 2015, John Carreyrou’s in-depth exposé is published in The Wall Street Journal. Holmes denies all accusations.
- The FDA begins an investigation and reports Theranos used an “uncleared medical device.”
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) inspects the Newark, California lab and found the facility did not “comply with certificate requirements and performance. standards” and caused “immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety.” Walgreens suspends their partnership.
- Theranos agrees to stay out of the blood-testing business for 2 years in exchange for reduced penalties ($30,000) from federal health authorities.
- Partner Fund Management (PFM) accuses Theranos of fraud.
- In the summer of 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges Holmes and former Theranos president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani with fraud. A federal grand jury indicts both with eleven counts of fraud and conspiracy.
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