A new behind-the-scenes look at the fall of Theranos, published in Vanity Fair, chronicles founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes's obsession with building a successful blood-testing company--and it's not pretty.
Some of the article's observations are by now well-known: that Theranos's original board didn't have much medical or scientific expertise; that the company demands a nondisclosure agreement of all visitors; and that Holmes's authority within Theranos is absolute.
But other details are new, or placed in a new context. Most damagingly, the story asserts that Holmes knew the company's testing technology wasn't working well, but charged ahead to unroll it at Walgreens stores anyway. It also offers new revelations about the timing and specifics of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's investigation of Theranos.
Vanity Fair's Nick Bilton also looks more closely at the experience of Ian Gibbons, who became Theranos's chief scientist in 2005. Gibbons immediately found that the technology wasn't working, the story says, and tried valiantly to fix it. Meanwhile, Holmes was rushing to commercialize the technology, and the tension between the two led Gibbons to attempt suicide, according to the story. Gibbons died a week later, and his wife, rather than receiving the condolence call she expected from Holmes, instead got a message "demanding that she immediately return any and all Theranos property."
And, of course, this being Vanity Fair, there are some lighter factoids as well. Among them: Sunni Balwani, the company's now-departed COO, used to date Holmes. Once, at an all-hands meeting, Theranos employees chanted, "F*** You, Carreyrou!" (John Carreyrou is a Wall Street Journal reporter who has written more than two dozen stories about problems at Theranos.) And the Theranos offices are maintained at 60-some degrees so Holmes can wear her black puffer vest all the time. There are plenty more as well--overall, it's not exactly the Silicon Valley success story anyone at Theranos wants to read.