Fallen biotech star Elizabeth Holmes testified during her fraud trial on Friday, where she stood before jurors as a visionary entrepreneur, having sacrificed her savings and left a renowned university to fulfill her dream.
Elizabeth Holmes risks spending decades behind bars if found guilty of fooling investors in Theranos, the famous start-up specializing in the manufacture of blood tests and whose value has reached billions of dollars, but which collapsed following accusations of fraud.
“I started by talking to my parents about it, they let me use the money saved for my studies to work on my patent, then I raised funds or borrowed the money,” he said. she declared in federal court in San Jose, California, the heart of Silicon Valley.
Elizabeth Holmes, who started Theranos in 2003 at the age of 19, planned to scale-produce diagnostic tools that are faster and cheaper than traditional labs, using methods said to allow up to 200 analyzes. from a few drops of blood. But the machines didn’t work.
Elizabeth Holmes quit her studies at Stanford University in 2004, claiming that she “spent all her time researching”, at odds with prosecutors who accuse her of selling a lie to deceive investors.
“I was doing it on my own, then I started a business,” she said in her famous husky voice and with her usual passion – which fueled the buzz around her in the world of fashion. technology.
– Try and fail –
During her testimony, Elizabeth Holmes, who is now 37, explained that she was transparent about her company’s expenses with one of her first investors and assured that she tried to “meet all the people who knew someone who worked in the pharmaceutical sector or worked there themselves ”.
She took the stand after prosecutors presented their case on Friday, after more than 11 weeks of debate and some 20 witnesses.
Testifying in her own defense carries significant risks as prosecutors can grapple with any inconsistency between what she says in court and her many public statements.
Elizabeth Holmes rose to fame by convincing established funders, journalists and business partners that her idea was feasible and could revolutionize medical testing.
Renowned for her steely gaze, she regularly wore a black turtleneck sweater… Like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, her idol.
She wowed influential figures like media mogul Rupert Murdoch and former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, but that all changed after a series of articles published in 2015 by the Wall Street Journal that questioned the operation of the machines of Theranos.
Before Elizabeth Holmes, the defense called Fabrizio Bonanni to testify. A retired executive from biotech company Amgen, he was recruited to help Theranos as the start-up faced fraud charges in 2016.
“I admired his willingness to listen to other people’s positions without being on the defensive,” Bonanni said in court. “People tend to listen and say yes, but. Holmes never said “yes, but”.
Her defense had argued at the opening of the trial that she was guilty of nothing but trying and failing to realize a visionary idea.
Holmes is charged with fraud and conspiring to commit fraud. If found guilty, she could be jailed for up to 20 years on each count.