This week in the Theranos trial of Elizabeth Holmes: Pfizer said, “No thanks.

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Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes arrives in federal court on September 8 for the opening of pleadings in her highly anticipated trial.

David Odisho / Getty Images

The trial of former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes has already lost three jurors and there are likely weeks of testimony remaining. Judge Edward Davila released a third juror on Friday after admitting she played the Sudoku puzzle game during her testimony. Two jurors had already been dismissed for reasons related respectively to financial difficulties and religious beliefs.

Three of the five substitute jurors have already been chosen to fill vacant seats in the jurors’ gallery in the federal courtroom in San Jose, California.

Holmes is charged with several counts of conspiracy and fraud over allegations she made about the company’s compact blood testing machine. Investigations revealed that the technology had serious problems. In just a few short years, Theranos has grown from $ 9 billion worth to one of Silicon Valley’s most notorious stories of the decade.

Last week in the courtroom saw the testimony of a former scientist from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

Theranos failed to impress Dr Shane Weber when he was tasked with performing due diligence on the company and its blood testing technology for the pharmaceutical giant, according to his testimony as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Weber told the court he spent 50 minutes on the phone with Holmes and then sent a number of follow-up questions to the company.

“(Theranos) provided uninformative, tangential, roundabout or evasive responses,” Weber wrote in a 2008 report that was discussed during his testimony on Friday.

Pfizer ultimately decided to forgo doing business with Theranos and Holmes.

Holmes’ defense attorneys argued in opening statements in September that the healthcare startup’s failure was due to “technical” shortcomings rather than deception on the part of its founder in disgrace. Holmes ‘attorney, Lance Wade, told jurors that the story of Theranos’ remarkable downfall was “much more human and real, and often … complicated and boring.”

“For lack of time, for lack of money, Elizabeth Holmes decided to lie,” US deputy lawyer Robert Leach told the 12 jury members last month.

Defense attorneys later countered that Theranos investors were well aware of the risks involved in supporting the startup.

The courtroom drama has been going on for more than three years, with Holmes initially being indicted in June 2018. The start of the trial has also been repeatedly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the birth of the child of Holmes on July 10 of this year. .

Here’s what else to know about one of the biggest trials of the decade to date.

What happened to Holmes and Theranos?

In 2003, Holmes left Stanford University at age 19 to found Theranos in an attempt to disrupt the blood testing industry. The company said it was developing a proprietary technology that required collecting a smaller amount of blood than a conventional intravenous sample and was more portable than traditional tests sent to a lab.

Theranos began to gain the attention of the general public in 2013 when it listed Walgreens and Safeway as potential customers. At one point, the startup was valued at over $ 9 billion.

Holmes began appearing on the covers of various publications, including Fortune, sometimes making comparisons to Steve Jobs for his apparent powers of disruption and penchant for high-necked black tops.

But Holmes and Theranos’ fortunes began to change in 2015 when the Wall Street Journal took a closer look at the company. The Journal reported that only a small portion of the tests were done with the company’s testing machine, named Edison, and that many tests were done on machines from other companies, using diluted blood samples. The accuracy of the test results patients received from Theranos has also been questioned.

All this led to the charges against Holmes in 2018, a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the permanent shutdown of Theranos shortly thereafter.

A 2019 documentary, a book called Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, and several podcasts about the company’s precipitous downfall have helped bring mainstream attention to the ‘story.

Former Theranos employee and whistleblower Tyler Shultz spoke to CNET in 2020 throughout the saga.

What is Holmes accused of?

Holmes is formally charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud.

“The charges stem from [Holmes’] allegedly misleading representations about [Theranos] and its medical testing technology, ”read a statement from the US District Court in Northern California.

Basically, Holmes is accused of lying to patients about how the company’s blood tests work and how effective they are. Some of the accusations also concern Holmes who allegedly misled investors about the inner workings of Theranos and the revenue the company was expected to generate.

If found guilty, Holmes could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

What is Holmes’ version of the story?

Although Holmes denied that the claims made by the original Journal report were true, she never told her side of the story in depth from that point on.

“This is what happens when you work to make a difference,” Holmes said on CNBC’s Mad Money in 2015. “First they think you’re crazy, then they fight you, and then everything else. suddenly you change the world. ”

The 37-year-old is said to have entered into a book deal to publicize her story. The book never materialized, but a widely acclaimed HBO documentary About the collapse of Theranos, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley from director Alex Gibney was released in 2019. It didn’t portray Holmes in a flattering light and she didn’t cooperate with the filmmakers, so his perspective on the events of the past half-decade remains largely a mystery.

Holmes’ lawyers come from the powerful Washington company that defended President Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial. One possibility is that they will say that she was following something like the Silicon Valley philosophy of “pretend until you do” and that she always believed in the long-term potential of the company and its technology to finally keep its promises.

According to the Wall Street Journal, lawyers for Holmes said she could claim that “she believed all the misrepresentations were true and, therefore, that Theranos was a legitimate business generating value for investors.”

There were allusions to this defense in the opening statements, when Wade called the company’s technology “real” and “innovative.”

August 28, newly unsealed court documents suggested Holmes could seek to defend herself by alleging that she had suffered psychological, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of former Theranos president and ex-boyfriend Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, and that as a result of her submission to him, she believed the alleged fraudulent statements she had made were true.

This strategy was also foreshadowed in the opening arguments in which Wade referred to Balwani’s temper and promised that more related evidence would be presented during the trial.

Balwani’s lawyers called the abuse allegations “scandalous.” One of the documents filed by Holmes’ attorneys indicated that she was likely to testify.

We’ll soon see if Holmes finally steps up to say his side of things.

How can I watch the trial?

The trial officially began on September 7, with opening pleadings the next day. There is no online stream of the trial and television cameras are not allowed in the courtroom, so the best way to follow the case will be through reporters in the room taking notes. old.

In total, more than 200 potential witnesses have been identified between the prosecution and the defense, so it is possible that the testimony will last for weeks.

Balwani faces similar charges in a separate trial scheduled for next year.

Holmes and Balwani have pleaded not guilty.

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