Elizabeth Holmes, a fallen biotech star, testified Friday, November 19 during her fraud trial, where she appeared before jurors as a visionary entrepreneur, having sacrificed her savings and left a renowned university to fulfill her dream.
Elizabeth Holmes risks spending decades behind bars if found guilty of fooling investors in Theranos, the famous start-up specializing in the manufacture of blood tests and whose value has reached billions of dollars, but which collapsed following accusations of fraud.
“I started by telling my parents about it, they let me use the money saved for my studies to work on my patent, then I raised funds or borrowed money”, she told federal court in San Jose, California, the heart of Silicon Valley.
Elizabeth Holmes, who started Theranos in 2003 at the age of 19, planned to produce diagnostic tools on a large scale faster and cheaper than traditional labs, using methods said to allow up to 200 analyzes. from a few drops of blood. But the machines didn’t work.
Elizabeth Holmes quit her studies at Stanford University in 2004, claiming that she “Spent all his time doing research”, at odds with prosecutors who accuse him of selling a lie to deceive investors.
“I did it by myself, then I created a company”, she said in her famous hoarse voice and with her usual passion – which has fueled the buzz around her in the tech world.
Try and fail
During her testimony, Elizabeth Holmes, who is now 37, explained that she was transparent about the expenses of her company with one of her first investors and assured that she tried to “Meet all the people who knew someone who worked in the pharmaceutical sector or worked there themselves”.
She took the stand after prosecutors presented their case on Friday, after more than eleven weeks of debate and some 20 witnesses. Testifying in her own defense carries significant risks as prosecutors can grapple with any inconsistency between what she says in court and her many public statements.
Elizabeth Holmes rose to fame by convincing established funders, journalists and business partners that her idea was feasible and could revolutionize medical testing. Renowned for her steely gaze, she regularly wore a black turtleneck sweater… Like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, her idol. She wowed influential figures like media mogul Rupert Murdoch and former U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, but that all changed after a series of articles published in 2015 by the Wall Street Journal, which questioned the functioning of Theranos’ machines.
Before Elizabeth Holmes, the defense called Fabrizio Bonanni to testify. A retired executive from biotech company Amgen, he was recruited to help Theranos as the start-up faced fraud charges in 2016. “I admired his willingness to listen to the positions of others without being on the defensive”, Bonanni told the court. “People tend to listen and say “Yes, but”. Holmes never said “Yes, but” ».
Her defense had argued at the opening of the trial that she was guilty of nothing but trying and failing to realize a visionary idea. Elizabeth Holmes is charged with fraud and conspiring to commit fraud. If found guilty, she could be jailed for up to twenty years on each count.
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At the Theranos trial, the founder denies any fraud and provides her own defense