Tue. Dec 7th, 2021


After 10 hours behind her on the witness stand, it became very clear how Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraceful founder of the blood test start-up Theranos, once managed to speak in to a parade of investors. farewell of hundreds of millions of dollars.

This week, as then, the 37-year-old Stanford dropout apparently had an answer for everything.

It helped that she already knew the questions, as they came from her attorney general Kevin Downey; all part of a tranquil and collected display, delivered maskless and behind plexiglass in San Jose court.

While defending herself on fraud charges, Holmes sometimes seemed so relaxed this week that she even made a smile on the judge’s jokes. It will be much harder soon. Prosecutors are likely to get their long-awaited turn to cross-examine her early next week.

Downey led Holmes through a testimony carefully orchestrated to serve two purposes. First, to present Holmes as an ambitious young entrepreneur with in-depth knowledge of her work, with an intense belief that her vision is possible.

Second, Holmes had to address some of the government’s strongest evidence, and ideally dampen it.

After taking a stand on Tuesday, she quickly made one of the most serious allegations: that she personally changed Theranos reports to include the logos of two major pharmaceutical companies – Pfizer and Schering-Plow.

Prosecutors said this implied that the pharmaceutical giant had endorsed Theranos’ technology, which was not the case. The documents were nevertheless sent by Holmes to Walgreens executives as part of what would be a successful proposal to open “wellness centers” within as many as 3,000 of the pharmacy chain’s locations. Walgreens became Theranos’ breakthrough client and the deal was the springboard to another major investment round that meant Theranos became a $ 9 billion company.

“This work was done in partnership with those companies and I tried to transfer it,” Holmes said of her editing intervention, acknowledging that the drug companies were unaware of her actions. “I wish I had done it differently,” she then added – a rare display of regret.

Then she took another attack: that Theranos was covering up the use of conventional testing machines because his own hardware was not up to the task, as previous witnesses had said.

Holmes dug in and said she made the choice to fall back on hardware made by people like Siemens because of the amount of testing of Walgreens customers that had to be handled. The Theranos machines are still only designed to handle just one person’s sample at a time, she explained, but third-party technology, such as machines made by Siemens, can handle much more.

When her lawyer asked why she did not share details about the process change with Walgreens, his clients or Theranos’ investors, Holmes claimed that she was far from orchestrating a cover-up, she was in fact a new invention: the ability to use existing testing machines for the analysis of smaller blood samples.

“It was an invention we understood from our lawyer that we had to protect as a trade secret,” Holmes said. “The big medical device companies like Siemens could reproduce what we did. They had a lot more engineers than us. ”

At times, the atmosphere in and around the court betrayed the seriousness of what might lie ahead for Holmes, who became a mother in July. She faces 11 charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, all of which are related to the general accusation that her promise, to reduce the cost and inconvenience of a blood test, was a fraud. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.

Whether it’s a happy timing or a well-executed plan, Holmes’ call to the witness stand at the defense, late Friday afternoon, sounded a siren for local and international media to come to San Jose by Monday morning to hear her to hear talk. herself for the first time since Theranos collapsed.

It also means now that jurors are going home for their Thanksgiving break with Holmes’ defense at the forefront of their minds – and not the government’s accusations.

Those most desperate to get one of about 30 public seats in the courtroom began arriving at 3 a.m. each morning, with two reporters implementing a strictly recorded queuing system to reward the early rebels. The system received praise from a local teacher who, after deciding out of curiosity to come along, said she organizes her seven-year-olds in much the same way.

Nearby, an opportunistic – if perhaps not entirely serious – woman opened a suitcase to reveal a variety of “goods”, including a blonde wig for $ 40, or a Holmes-like black tortleneck for the same price.

A suitcase with a blonde wig and a black tortleneck sweater
Items for sale outside the Holmes trial included turtleneck sweaters and blonde wigs for $ 40 © Dave Lee

The scene proved that while it may not be quite as she intended, Holmes has undoubtedly become an industry icon. When she walked into court on Tuesday, a male supporter shouted “Girl boss! God bless your girl boss! ” – a derogatory nickname, but one that speaks to a sentiment held by some who point out that, for all the male-led failed start-ups, it is telling that it is a woman who finds herself in the dock in one of the most discussed cases in Silicon Valley’s history.

Others suggest it is not Holmes’ gender that is playing, but her choice of business. Compared to the “moving fast and breaking things” wild west of software and social networks, the highly regulated healthcare sector offers ample opportunity for relentless investigation, and the cost of getting it wrong – as evidenced by one witness here falsely told by Theranos is that she had a miscarriage – is severe.

Should Holmes be found guilty, some believe it will lead future innovators, instilling a fear of failure. If Holmes walks away, it’s a sign to investors that even someone who’s been lying persistently, they’s not facing any criminal repercussions.



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