Jury in Elizabeth Holmes Trial Finally Selected!

Grace Cairns, Contributing Writer

Elizabeth Holmes, once named the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire by Forbes, is now on trial for 12 cases of fraud. If found guilty on all charges, she will face up to 20 years in prison. 

Elizabeth Holmes, the daughter of a wealthy family, started her biology and health research during summer break from Stanford University. By her second year at Stanford, she had dropped out to officially launch Theranos. Theranos was a new machine with technology that would guarantee to run over 1,000 medical tests from just a pinprick of a finger, and it even was even promised to be able to detect cancer. This new way of conducting tests only allowed in a lab not only appealed to people who were afraid of needles, but it was also much cheaper and efficient compared to traditional blood tests. From the year Holmes found Theranos to the time it was expected to officially launch, she had sought out funding from investors to develop the company in secret. By 2014, Theranos was licensed to do tests everywhere in the United States. This new technology was groundbreaking for lab work everywhere, making Theranos a $9 billion company by the time it launched. The only problem was that it didn’t actually work.

By 2015, Theranos was starting to be exposed for fraudulent tests, and by 2018, Holmes surrendered control of her company. Now Holmes is on trial. But Holmes isn’t the only contributor under fire; her former boyfriend Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani is facing the same fraud charges as Holmes. Holmes’ lawyers are predicted to argue that Balwani had emotionally and sexually abused Holmes, therefore making her unable to make clear decisions during their career and romantic partnership.

This isn’t the first time Holmes and Balwani have been legally charged, though. In 2018, after Theranos had been officially shut down and discredited, both Holmes and Balwani were arrested on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In 2019, Holmes was released on bail. Once again, the former couple is back on trial, and prosecutors will use Holmes’ emails and texts as evidence against her to prove that she knew what she was promoting was fraudulent. 

Holmes’ fraud not only disgraces herself, but also other female entrepreneurs, who argue that they are constantly compared and in the shadow of her. One New York Times article highlights the struggles of many women in biotechnology after Theranos’ failure. The article focuses on the struggles of Alice Zhang, a businesswoman who in 2018 founded Verge Genomics, a start-up that focused on using artificial intelligence to find drugs. The company was completely different from Holmes’ blood test failure, yet people kept comparing the two of them. Other women have expressed the same disadvantage, even years after Theranos has fallen apart. Biotechnology, a field that is already strongly male-dominated, was made even harder for women to participate in after the scandals of Theranos. Women had cited that not only do they have to face the struggle of being out-numbered by their male colleagues, but their peers also expect them to be liars promoting fake science, just like Holmes.

As the trial comes closer, a lot of people are at risk depending on the results. What comes forward from Holmes’ lawyers research will reveal the ugly parts of their former relationship, and what is revealed from the prosecutors investigation of Holmes’ emails will prove if she truly knew what she was doing was wrong. As for women still trying to fight their way into positions in science, the trial’s results will either get rid of the stigma Holmes’ caused for women in STEM, or make it even harder than when Theranos was first discredited.