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Summary and book reviews of Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Bad Blood

Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

by John Carreyrou

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou X
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2018, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2020, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.

A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.

Prologue

November 17, 2006

Tim Kemp had good news for his team.

The former IBM executive was in charge of bioinformatics at Theranos, a startup with a cutting-edge blood-testing system. The company had just completed its first big live demonstration for a pharmaceutical company. Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’s twenty-two-year-old founder, had flown to Switzerland and shown off the system’s capabilities to executives at Novartis, the European drug giant.

“Elizabeth called me this morning,” Kemp wrote in an email to his fifteen-person team. “She expressed her thanks and said that, ‘it was perfect!’ She specifically asked me to thank you and let you all know her appreciation. She additionally mentioned that Novartis was so impressed that they have asked for a proposal and have expressed interest in a financial arrangement for a project. We did what we came to do!”

This was a pivotal moment for Theranos. The three-year-old startup had progressed ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Carreyrou's work has won many accolades; his Wall Street Journal articles on Theranos won the George Polk Award for Financial Reporting, and Bad Blood was awarded the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award. It also appeared on many "best of" lists for 2018. My vote can be added; I certainly found it to be one of the finest non-fiction accounts I've read, and I highly recommend it to those interested in cautionary tales about the business world or great non-fiction reads in general...continued

Full Review (825 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

New York Magazine
A great and at times almost unbelievable story of scandalous fraud, surveillance, and legal intimidation at the highest levels of American corporate power. . . The story of Theranos may be the biggest case of corporate fraud since Enron. But it's also the story of how a lot of powerful men were fooled by a remarkably brazen liar.

Nature
In Bad Blood, acclaimed investigative journalist John Carreyrou, who broke the story in 2015, presents comprehensive evidence of the fraud perpetrated by Theranos chief executive Elizabeth Holmes... He unveils many dark secrets of Theranos that have not previously been laid bare…The combination of these brave whistle-blowers, and a tenacious journalist who interviewed 150 people (including 60 former employees) makes for a veritable page-turner.

Science
Engrossing… Bad Blood boasts movie-scene detail… Theranos, Carreyrou writes, was a revolving door, as Holmes and Balwani fired anyone who voiced even tentative doubts… What's frightening is how easy it is to imagine a different outcome, one in which the company's blood-testing devices continued to proliferate. That the story played out as it did is a testament to the many individuals who spoke up, at great personal risk.

Kirkus Reviews
[Carreyrou] brilliantly captures the interpersonal melodrama, hidden agendas, gross misrepresentations, nepotism, and a host of delusions and lies that further fractured the company's reputation and halted its rise.

The New York Times Book Review
[A] chilling, third-person narrative of how Holmes came up with a fantastic idea that made her, for a while, the most successful woman entrepreneur in Silicon valley… Prizewinning Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou tells [this story] virtually to perfection… [His] description of Holmes as a manic leader who turned coolly hostile when challenged is ripe material for a psychologist…His recounting of his efforts to track down sources—many of whom were being intimidated by Theranos's bullying lawyer, David Boies—reads like a West Coast version of All the President's Men.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Carreyrou blends lucid descriptions of Theranos's technology and its failures with a vivid portrait of its toxic culture and its supporters' delusional boosterism. The result is a bracing cautionary tale about visionary entrepreneurship gone very wrong.

Booklist
Starred Review. Crime thriller authors have nothing on Carreyrou's exquisite sense of suspenseful pacing and multifaceted character development in this riveting, read-in-one-sitting tour de force...Carreyrou's commitment to unraveling Holmes' crimes was literally of life-saving value.

Author Blurb Bethany McLean, bestselling coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils Are Here
You will not want to put this riveting, masterfully reported book down. No matter how bad you think the Theranos story was, you'll learn that the reality was actually far worse.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Immunoassay: A Medical Diagnostic Test

As reported in John Carreyrou's book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, Elizabeth Holmes's company Theranos produced a device that it claimed could run a medical diagnostic test called an immunoassay on a very small amount of blood.

ImmunoassayAn assay is a procedure for measuring the amount of, or presence of, a specific substance (an "analyte") in a larger body of material. Assays are used in many fields; for example, a geologist might assay a lump of ore to determine the amount of iron present in it. In medicine, an immunoassay is just one type of assay that might be run to assist in managing an individual's health. A biological sample is obtained from the subject, most often blood, which is then assayed for the presence of...

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