Who is Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes? Why has she been sentenced to jail?

Who is Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes? Why has she been sentenced to jail?

The tests, according to Holmes, will be able to detect diseases such as cancer and high cholesterol.

A US federal court on Friday sentenced Elizabeth Holmes to 11 years and three months in prison for turning her Silicon Valley venture, Theranos, into a sophisticated fraud, duping billionaires and other naïve investors into funding an apparently groundbreaking company whose medical technology never worked as Holmes promised. 

Here's all you need to know about Holmes and her fake blood-testing startup: 

Who is Elizabeth Holmes?

Elizabeth Anne Holmes is the founder and ex-CEO of Theranos, a now-defunct health technology company that soared in valuation after the company falsely claimed to have revolutionised blood testing by developing testing methods that could use surprisingly small volumes of blood, such as from a fingerprick. She was found guilty of fraud in 2022. 

Elizabeth Holmes was born in Washington, DC on February 3, 1984. Her mother, Noel Holmes, worked for a Congressional committee, while her father, Christian Holmes, worked for Enron before going to government agencies such as USAID.

When Holmes was a child, her family relocated from Washington, DC to Houston.

What is Theranos?

Theranos was a privately held American health technology company that claimed to have invented blood tests that required very little blood and could be conducted very quickly utilising small automated instruments the company had developed. These allegations, however, were later disproved.

Theranos was founded in 2003 by Elizabeth Holmes, then 19 years old, and raised over US $700 million from venture capitalists and other investors, leading in a $10 billion valuation at its height in 2013 and 2014. 

Fake claims

Theranos' fraud business strategy was built on the premise of performing blood tests with proprietary technology that just required a pinprick in your finger and a tiny bit of blood.

The tests, according to Holmes, will be able to detect diseases such as cancer and high cholesterol. 

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The court's decision

A US jury found Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, guilty of misleading investors in the blood testing company, convicting her on four counts but acquitted on four other counts.

US District Judge Edward Davila announcing the sentencing said the case was "troubling on so many levels," and that Holmes' hubris and lies led to the company's downfall. 

"This is a fraud case where an exciting venture went forward with great expectations only to be dashed by untruths, misrepresentations, plain hubris and lies," said Judge Davila.

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