When does a dream factory dream too big? And when everyone wakes up, what's the damage?
The acclaim for Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes went well beyond the borders of tech. Theranos, she said, would revolutionize blood testing, making it simpler, faster, and cheaper. Those claims boosted her onto the covers of Forbes and Fortune magazine; Inc.dubbed her "The Next Steve Jobs".
In 2015, John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal pointed out the gulf between the company's promises and its actual results. Scrutiny by the SEC, FDA, and other federal and state agencies led to fraud allegations; lab work was suspended and lawsuits filed. When the dust settled, the big question remained: how did a framework of fantasy with so little substance hoodwink investors and the public? How does what we want to believe play out in the world of real money and real science? And if this is all a cautionary tale, what cautions does it leave us with?
Carreyrou's reporting on Theranos netted him a George Polk award. His subsequent book is being filmed with Jennifer Lawrence. John Carreyrou joins the Literary Foundation's journalist-in-residence for This Is Now with Angie Coiro, our ongoing politics and culture series.