Elizabeth Holmes left college to bring her invention to market. She just might end up saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
Photograph by Robin Twomey
Many entrepreneurs like to say they're out to change the world. Holmes is staying true to her promise. At the age of 20, she designed a device with the goal of saving the estimated 100,000 people who die each year from adverse drug reactions. With the Theranos 1.0, patients prick their fingers and place a small drop of blood on a disposable cartridge, which is then inserted into a reader that analyzes the medicine within the bloodstream. The device then sends the data wirelessly to a secure database, which makes it available online to the patients' physicians.
Holmes is now marketing the product to pharmaceutical companies who will use it during their clinical trials to monitor how patients interact with new drugs -- with hopes of eventually distributing it commercially. As she describes it, "Thernos 1.0 is an external point-of-care BlackBerry."
Holmes was a chemical engineering major at Stanford, researching wireless transmission and medical analytics, when she conceived the idea to help provide data for early treatment. "When I told my professors about the device, they told me I would be crazy not to create a company," she says. She agreed -- and eventually left Stanford to pursue it. In the beginning, Holmes received a bridge loan from a VC firm and private-equity funding totaling $6 million. The company recently raised another $10 million, and Holmes remains as involved with the science as she does with raising capital, hiring employees, and the other day-to-day of running a company.
"I decided to pursue this full time and just did it," she says. "That's the way I do a lot of things in life -- when I decide something, that's it."
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