Here's What Happened Just Before Theranos' Demise

Writing for Vanity Fair, Nick Bilton describes Elizabeth Holmes as being chipper to the end
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2019 7:45 AM CST
Updated Feb 24, 2019 4:10 PM CST
During Theranos' Last Days, Dog Pooped in Board Room
In this Nov. 2, 2015 file photo, Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, speaks at the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

You've likely heard about the explosive demise of Elizabeth Holmes' blood-testing company Theranos, a downfall that began in late 2015 with an investigative piece by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou that questioned the reliability of its testing and unmasked the company's use of third-party devices. But you haven't heard all of it. Writing for Vanity Fair, Nick Bilton takes us to the fall of 2017 and zeroes in on the company's final year, during which a dog could be found "defecating in the boardroom." Yes, really. As Bilton explains, even amidst what seemed like total failure—the SEC, DOJ, and FBI were investigating—Holmes still thought she could make Theranos work. She just needed a Siberian husky.

Bilton writes that in September 2017, Holmes flew across the country to pick up the dog she christened Balto. "For Holmes, the dog represented the journey that lay ahead for Theranos," and she explained to her team the genesis of the dog's name: It was a nod to the dog Balto, who in 1925 led a dog-sled team 600 miles in Alaska to deliver a drug needed to staunch a diphtheria outbreak. Holmes was determined to keep Balto by her side, even as lab workers complained about the presence of dog hair. And then there was the fact Balto wasn't housebroken. "While Holmes held board meetings with people like Henry Kissinger, Balto could be found in the corner of the room relieving himself while a frenzied assistant was left to clean up the mess." Read the full piece, which describes Holmes as being "weirdly chipper" as it was all crashing down, here. (More Longform stories.)

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