A comprehensive review of Theranos' founder.
Companies rise and fall all the time in America, almost as a hallmark of capitalism. But perhaps none has ever completed that cycle with the dizzying speed of Theranos, a Silicon Valley company that had promised to revolutionize the $50 billion blood-testing industry.
Theranos was founded in 2003 by Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout who managed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in private funding without anyone in the media catching on for the next decade. In 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that Theranos had developed blood analysis machines that could “automate and miniaturize more than 1,000 laboratory tests” in a manner that would “require only microscopic blood volumes.” It also revealed that the company had struck up a partnership with Walgreens wba , which would launch a network of in-store blood collection clinics. The following summer, Fortune put Holmes on its cover, revealing that private investors had valued her company at more than $9 billion.
From that moment on, Holmes was a bonafide business celebrity. And she embraced it, giving countless interviews and appearing on stage at numerous conferences―often in a black turtleneck seemingly designed to evoke memories of Steve Jobs.
Then, just 16 months after the Fortune cover, it all began to collapse. The Wall Street Journal returned its attention to Theranos, reporting that the company wasn’t using its own blood analysis machines to do many of its tests, and that there were accuracy concerns over the tests that were done on its machines. That story sparked a series of articles in the WSJ and elsewhere—including an unprecedented mea culpa from Fortune—and regulatory actions that caused many in Silicon Valley to conclude that Theranos was expert at marketing but lousy at science. Executives began to leave. The board, initially heavy on ex-politicos like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, was reworked. And then reworked again. Walgreens bailed.
Last November, Holmes addressed the scrutiny at Fortune’s Global Forum with Alan Murray, which you can see here:
Finally this week, Theranos announced that federal regulators had banned Holmes from owning or operating a medical laboratory for at least two years, and that Theranos could no longer continue operating its California lab. Holmes, who has been promising to finally reveal compelling, peer-reviewed science at a medical conference next month, pledged to rebuild the California lab “from the ground up” but it’s unclear how she will finance such an endeavor.
Save for a miracle, this business story seems to have reached its final chapter. See the rest of its chapters below for our comprehensive coverage:
Stay tuned to Fortune for continuing coverage of the Theranos drama.