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E. H. — the Vampire of Silicon Valley

When you analyse the scandals of healthcare in the US, certain names pop up immediately. The Epi-pen scandal with its CEO Mrs Bresh raising the price of the pen from $56.64 to $317.82 and increasing salary from $2,453,456 in 2007, to $18,931,068 in 2015; Martin Shkreli’s (nicknamed ‘pharma vulture’) case with his Daraprim skyrocketing costs from $13 to $750 per tablet, all of a sudden, and the one that has gained universal attention – Elizabeth Holmes’ scandal reflected by Alex Gibney in the famous documentary ”The Inventor. Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” (HBO, 2019.)

Elizabeth Holmes’ biotech start-up Theranos, researching blood samples, at one point worth $10 billion, has defrauded the money of most conscientious stock investors. Holmes case was taken up by the prosecution but the woman asked for the charges to be dismissed, repeating that there was never any evidence that the incorrect results of the tests she produced with her analyzers harmed anyone.

plakat filmu The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

Elizabeth Holmes was a sleek superstar with the ambitions of Steve Jobs, the stubbornness of Mark Zuckerberg and the persuasion of Bill Gates. She was destined for success. Unlike her friends from the Silicon Valley, however, she built it on a lie.

She ‘developed’ a machine that would put stop to the collection of blood from veins once and for all, a method that had not evolved in more than half a century. Her invention was the size of a small box that would quickly perform over 200 tests using just a drop of blood. In Silicon Valley, where everything got smaller and was going nano-way; that was exactly the tune to be sung to!

The device transported a drop of blood taken from the patient in a thin, long needle, from which it then distributed the microparticles into several dozen containers. It was supposed to happen quickly, but the machines kept jamming and provided totally false results.

Elizabeth Holmes was also an intelligent public influencer - intentionally lowering her voice to a deep baritone, rarely blinking and her wardrobe being the collection of black turtle necks. She also sported the image of a Stanford dropout, bored with university routine, retelling stories of her fear of phlebotomy and boasting about powerful friends and allies as: Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and Henry Kissinger. Having exposed her full pendulum of socio-tricks she made her way to the top.

Her lies were also mostly painful for the employees who had ethical problems with what they were doing. Holmes looked at them not only from the company's floor, but also from the covers of "Forbes", "Fortune" or "Glamor". Her popularity was so great that when she appeared at universities and gave lectures, students were literally ‘drinking words from her lips’. Additionally, in the masculinized world of science, a woman who overcame the fattest fish of business easily, quickly became a female heroine.

Theranos had been a hoax for years. As a result of a journalistic investigation, Holmes was brought to trial and sentenced to a 10-year ban on directorships in any company. And guess what — with 2021 oncoming, she is a free person with fresh ideas for the pandemic- stricken future and no remorse for the past. Some Americans get a gut feeling she will try again. Another bloody-good, project?


Piotr Flieger
Department of Foreign Languages
photo: hbogo.pl

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