Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

I listened to this book on audio and I’m absolutely amazed that this type of thing could happen in the 21st century.

In Bad Blood, award winning journalist Josh Carreyrou writes the story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos scandal. As an Australian, the initial news coverage of the event completely passed me by.

Elizabeth Holmes was a Stanford University drop out who came up with the idea of a box that could perform a battery of blood tests from tiny portions of blood drawn relatively painlessly from the finger. She employed hundreds of people and raised billions of dollars to make and market this device. The one problem was that it didn’t work.

Carreyrou reports multiple people talked about Holmes’ charismatic nature and her absolute belief in her project and that this seemed to be a large part of what kept people believing in her. Some of her backers were huge names in the US. She even got millions of dollars out of Rupert Murdoch.

Carreyrou has a number of sources who are ex-employees of Theranos who were concerned about the product Theranos was producing and what the company was saying it would do. He also talks about the incredible secrecy, and the bullying and intimidation used by the company to control its staff. The steps that Theranos used to try to silence those who had left it’s employment were also completely off the charts.

I can’t believe that the company got so far as to have its machine in stores when there was no testing or peer reviews about the function and accuracy, and that people kept handing over millions of dollars to something with no testing that showed that it actually did what Holmes said it would. It makes me wonder if such a thing could happen here? As someone who works in a quality assurance position, really drives home just how important those types of jobs are.

Bad Blood is a gripping read that will make you shake your head in disbelief.


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