Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in A Silicon Valley Startup (2018) by John Carreyrou has justly received dozens upon dozens of glowing reviews: “riveting, masterfully reported book;” “almost unbelievable story of scandalous fraud, surveillance, and legal intimidation;” “the scam of the century,” all with which I agree.  Even if you think you are inured to stories of corruption, corporate malfeasance, unprincipled lawyers and the corrosive power of money you will find you are not.  

The story, first broken in the author, John Carreyou, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in 2015, after almost a year of researching, interviewing and fighting lawyers and publicists of Theranos, the skyrocketing and deep-pocketed medical equipment startup, is simple enough in outline.  The details run to the detailed and complex which Carreyou handles with admirable clarity.

A Stanford University drop out, Elizabeth Holmes was smart and driven and very well-connected.  At nineteen years old, with one year of university completed she began a start-up in the spring of 2004.  Her goal was to apply nano and micro technology to medical diagnostics. Instead of drawing blood from a vein with a large needle, she was convinced that tiny drops obtained from finger pricks would be enough to do standard blood analysis, and many more esoteric tests.  Her own fear of needles and a summer internship in a Singapore lab using standard diagnostic tools of swabs, syringes and needles pushed her; the promise of cutting edge technology pulled her. Several investments by family friends put her on the road with some $6 million.

Whatever her good intentions or native intelligence by 2006 the slippery slope had begun to take shape, unnoticed by all but a few at the time.  The fluid mechanics and chemical procedures to handle processes and do reliable testing on such small quantities of blood was much more difficult that it had seemed. 

For those interested, decent chapter summaries are here, and here.  

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