Regular readers of Ars have likely been following our coverage of the Elizabeth Holmes fraud case. The Theranos founder has been the subject of both a 2018 documentary and a The Inventor: Out for Blood at Silicon Valley. Hulu now has the trailer for The Dropout, the streaming service's original limited series that stars Amanda Seyfried as Holmes. (Kate McKinnon had been originally scheduled to star, but she left the production for unknown reasons.
It's a great story. Famously, Holmes dropped out Stanford to found Theranos. It claimed that its technology would revolutionize medical diagnostic testing, reducing the blood needed to analyze samples to just one finger. Theranos received over $900 million in funding from investors who had little experience in biomedical startups. Forbes magazine named Holmes as the youngest and most successful female billionaire in America in 2015. Theranos was valued at $9 billion by Forbes magazine.
Theranos failed to live up to its promise of performing more than 1000 tests without requiring a drop in blood, as Ars' Tim De Chant reported. It could actually do 12. It could do 12.
Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou spent months researching Theranos, and published an explosive series. Forbes reduced the company's value to zero in 2016. Holmes and Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny," Balwani, who were both played by Naveen Andrews (of Lost fame), were eventually charged with a multimillion dollar scheme to defraud patients and investors. Both were not guilty.
The jury was also shown how Holmes personally approved investor presentations including the fraudulent demos. The court heard that Holmes altered Theranos-authored documents to include logos from various pharmaceutical companies. This made it appear that the companies had approved the contents. Theranos actually prohibited the startup from using logos of these companies in some contracts. Holmes claimed that she was only trying to communicate the relationship between the two companies.
The fact that Holmes and Balwani shared a romantic history of more than 10 years added spice to the drama. Investors and employees at Theranos were not aware of this. Holmes claimed that she was abused and controlled during the trial. Balwani was Theranos' COO for a large part of its existence. Holmes claimed she was raped and controlled by Balwani throughout her life. The relationship ended in 2016.
Holmes was convicted of defrauding Lakeshore Capital Management, the family office of DeVoses, of $100 million, PFM Healthcare, a hedge fund of $38million, and an LLC linked to Daniel Mosley, Henry Kissinger's former estate lawyer, of $6 million. Holmes was also found guilty of conspiring to commit wire fraud against Theranos investors in general.
The jury did not return a verdict on three charges alleging wire fraud against investors. Holmes was cleared of all other charges including defrauding patients. Holmes could spend up to 20 years behind bars and is currently awaiting sentencing. This will be after Balwani's trial.
Hulu's series is based upon the 2019 Emmy-nominated podcast by Rebecca Jarvis. Jarvis is also an executive producer. According to the official premise
Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. Hulu's limited series The dropout, the story Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried), and Theranos is an incredible tale of fame and ambition gone horribly wrong. How could the youngest female self-made billionaire in the world lose it all in a blink of an eye.
Seyfried plays a charming Holmes in the trailer. With her optimism, energy and charm, you can see how this young woman could be a magnet for seasoned investors. Even though her testimony was not credible, even the jury found her charming.
Star-studded cast includes Laurie Metcalf, Phyllis Gardner, a Stanford professor, and William H. Macy, Richard Fuisz. He is the doctor who linked Carreyrou to Theranos. Stephen Fry, Ian Gibbons, is the former chief scientist at Theranos. Camryn Miyoung Kim, Erika Cheung, is the whistleblower and former employee of Theranos.
Hulu will premiere the first three episodes of The Dropout on March 3, 2022. New episodes will be aired on a weekly basis after that.