Elizabeth Holmes founded her revolutionary blood diagnostics company, Theranos, when she was 19. It’s now worth more than $9 billion, and poised to change health care.
In the fall of 2003, Elizabeth Holmes, a 19-year-old sophomore at Stanford, plopped herself down in the office of her chemical engineering professor, Channing Robertson, and said, “Let’s start a company.”
Robertson, who had seen thousands of undergraduates over his 33-year teaching career, had known Holmes just more than a year. “I knew she was different,” Robertson told me in an interview. “The novelty of how she would view a complex technical problem–it was unique in my experience.”
Theranos today is a potentially highly disruptive upstart in America’s $73 billion diagnostic-lab industry, which performs nearly 10 billion tests a year and is estimated to provide the basis for about 70% of doctors’ medical decisions. Medicare and Medicaid each pay roughly $10 billion annually on reimbursements for these tests.
Theranos runs what’s called a high-complexity laboratory, certified by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and it is licensed to operate in nearly every state. It currently offers more than 200–and is ramping up to offer more than 1,000–of the most commonly ordered blood diagnostic tests, all without the need for a syringe.