A deep investigative report on the sensationalistic downfall of multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley biotech startup Theranos.
Basing his findings on hundreds of interviews with people inside and outside the company, two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning Wall Street Journal reporter Carreyrou rigorously examines the seamy details behind the demise of Theranos and its creator, Elizabeth Holmes. Founded in 2003, when Holmes was just 19, the company’s claim to “fame” was its revolutionary blood-testing system, which touted the detection of everything from high cholesterol to hepatitis C to cancer using only one drop of blood. While raising $9 billion through a series of aggressive (and falsified) claims and dozens of private investors, the company’s spiking net worth caught Carreyrou’s attention a few years ago. His eye-opening reporting on the company’s inaccurate, voided, or corrected test results, as well as the loss of major retail partnerships with Walgreens and Safeway, knocked Theranos off the tech radar and left it irreversibly devastated. The author glosses over Holmes’ history as an unpopular high schooler and, later, Stanford dropout, focusing on her early vision of the specialized blood-reading equipment, the rapid evolution of Theranos, and the early skepticism about the device’s efficacy and reliability. The well-integrated employee profiles and testimonies effectively support Carreyrou’s damning narrative and discredit Holmes as a power-hungry, avaricious young leader who courted venture capitalists with specious claims. Former Theranos employees paint Holmes as an increasingly tyrannical leader who demanded allegiance and who swiftly terminated those who she felt fell short of ultimate loyalty. The author brilliantly captures the interpersonal melodrama, hidden agendas, gross misrepresentations, nepotism, and a host of delusions and lies that further fractured the company’s reputation and halted its rise. More recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission slapped Theranos and Holmes with fraud charges, though she still touts her device as having improved accuracy and importance.
Already slated for feature film treatment, Carreyrou’s exposé is a vivid, cinematic portrayal of serpentine Silicon Valley corruption.