Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes is the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire.
When she was a sophomore at Stanford in 2003, Holmes founded healthcare-technology company Theranos (a few months later, she dropped out to focus on the company). Today, she has a net worth of $US4.6 billion.
Theranos is a $US9 billion biotech company that has a new approach to blood testing. Its goal is to make clinical testing cheaper and faster.
Theranos wants to conduct blood tests for health issues through a single finger stick rather than by having to draw vials of blood in a doctor’s office. Theranos has drawn scepticism from the scientific community in part because Theranos is cagey about how its tests actually work.
But for now, Holmes is on top of the world. Today, her blood tests are used in places like Walgreens.
Elizabeth Holmes was born in February 1984. Her mum, Noel Anne, was a Congressional committee staffer, and her dad, Christian Holmes, worked for government agencies like USAID.
At the age of 9, Holmes wrote a letter to her father: 'What I really want out of life is to discover something new, something that mankind didn't know was possible to do.'
When she was a teenager living in China, Holmes started her own business where she sold C++ compilers to Chinese schools.
Holmes was inspired by her great-great-grandfather Christian Holmes, a surgeon, to go into medicine, but she discovered she was terrified of needles. Later, this would influence her to start Theranos.
Holmes went to Stanford to study chemical engineering. When she was a freshman, she became a President's Scholar, an honour which came with a $3,000 stipend to go towards a research project.
Within a year she had filed a patent application for 'Medical device for analyte monitoring and drug delivery,' a wearable device that monitored patients' blood and administrated medicine.
As a sophomore, Holmes went to one of her professors, Channing Robertson, and told him: 'Let's start a company.' With his blessing, she founded Real-Time Cures, later changing the company's name to Theranos.
She dropped out of Stanford a semester later, working on Theranos in the basement of a college house.
For the first decade Holmes spent building her company, Theranos operated in stealth mode. She even took three former Theranos employees to court, where she claimed they had misused Theranos trade secrets.
Theranos develops blood tests that detect medical conditions, like cancer and high cholesterol. Instead of using a needle, Theranos is minimally invasive, and uses a pinprick in your finger to take just a couple drops of blood.
To date, Theranos has raised $92 million in VC funding from investors like Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Larry Ellison.
Theranos has drawn scepticism from the scientific community in part because Theranos is cagey about how its tests actually work.
Holmes has more than 50% equity in Theranos, which has a $9 billion valuation. Theranos is now licensed to run in every US state.
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