Bad Blood Is Good Reading

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Bad Blood is a great book. I love good investigative reporting and John Carreyrou has written a great book about Theranos. I listened to the podcast The Dropout by ABC News, which discussed the rise of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. The podcast was great. The book was even better.

Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of Stanford at 19 to found Theranos. She said she was out to revolutionize medicine and blood testing. But what she said and what really happened are two very different things. Elizabeth took a microfluitics class and decided that she could draw blood through a patch, run tests and make diagnoses, and distribute medicine via the patch. It did not work. Then she came up with the idea of being able to run hundreds of blood tests with a finger stick and a few drops of blood instead of a venous blood draw. The question is whether Elizabeth knew this couldn’t work and stole money from investors, or was delusional and believed it could work, despite the protestations of her employees.

Holmes was dictatorial in her leadership and refused to accept or even hear any criticism. She had famous people on her Board, who believed and defended her without having seen the technology ever work. How she conned these men is beyond me, but she did. To the extent that former Secretary of State George Shultz believed her over his own grandson. Talk about a cult of personality.

Carreyrou takes us on a journey from the glorious beginning of Theranos and Elizabeth’s determination to become the female Steve Jobs, to its downfall in which one wonders whether Theranos was an elaborate hoax to scam people out of billions of dollars. I still haven’t figured out the answer to that question. I’m not sure if she was delusional or if she is a brilliant conwoman.

This book reminded me of “All the President’s Men.” It has the same kind of suspense in it. Carreyrou is followed by a PI, as are the sources he uses. Former employees are threatened with litigation. Holmes took Nixon-paranoia to a new level. The labs all had fingerprint reader locks. She has an armada of bodyguards, and everyone signed extensive nondisclosure agreements – such that employees could not even say on LinkedIn who they worked for a put a specific job description. Their phones and emails were monitored. (An employee who forwarded emails to his personal email was threatened with litigation if he did not delete them.) The security went beyond cautious and into the land of black helicopters and aluminum foil hats. Was this to hide the scam? Or just protect trade secrets? That is left to the reader to determine.

If you are interested in a well-written and well-investigated true crime story, you will love this book. I highly recommend it.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.


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