She was named the world’s first self-made billionaire by Forbes after she dropped out of Stanford University School of Engineering at the age of 19 to start her own biotech company.
Now 31, Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos is worth $9 billion (£5.9 billion), and U.S. president Barack Obama even made her an ambassador for global business.
Her company claims they plan to revolutionise venipuncture by offering 200 blood tests through just the prick of a finger using nano-diagnostic technology – which led the New York Times to declare she may be changing “the health-care paradigm as we know it”.
She was the youngest winner of ‘The Horatio Alger Award’ in 2015 and ranked on Time’s list of the year’s 100 most-influential people.
To many in the U.S., Holmes is the living embodiment of the ‘American Dream’ – but, it turns out, the inspirational story may have been too good to be true.
She’s long been touted as the Steve Jobs of biotech (a comparison helped along by her consistent wardrobe choice of black turtlenecks) but the science of her company may not actually add up.
An article written by an investigative journalist at the Wall Street Journal last month revealed that of the 200 tests which the company boasts, only the herpes test used microsample technology, and only a limited number of the tests were likely to use the game-changing technology going forward.
That revelation could be hugely damaging to Theranos, as it implies that the company have completely over-exaggerated their claims about how useful their technology actually is.
Holmes has since denied her company had simply resorted to using the old technology it had previously dismissed, insisting that Theranos had “voluntarily” sought the official approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was why her company was not using the technology for all its blood tests. She also accused the WSJ report of “misinformation”.
Forbes, however, have already described the story of Theranos as a “cautionary tale” and, certainly, the story of Elizabeth Holmes could prove a reminder to be careful not to always get caught up in the hype surrounding a young entrepreneur.