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When Did A Teenage Elizabeth Holmes Get The Idea For Blood Testing Company Theranos?

Since she was a kid, Elizabeth Holmes, a Steve Jobs super fan, wanted to change the world.

Elizabeth Holmes wanted to be a successful business person for most of her life — but where did she get the idea to create a blood testing device that could perform dozens of tests using minuscule amounts of blood?

The idea made her famous and would eventually make her notorious. The disgraced tech CEO was indicted on fraud charges in 2018 for scamming numerous investors with false claims about the breakthrough medical technology her company Theranos had supposedly developed. But what she was proposing wasn’t technically possible; she had faked that a prototype of the device. A jury convicted her on four fraud counts in January.

But years before she was arrested for her misdeeds, she was a very young aspiring business pioneer. 

At just 9 years old, Holmes told her father in a letter that what she "really want[ed] out of life is to discover something new, something that mankind didn't know was possible to do,” the BBC reported last month.

The new Hulu series “The Dropout,” which dramatizes Holmes’ life and crimes, depicts teenage Holmes as someone who idolized Steve Jobs; there is even a scene in which she is dancing around her room while staring at a poster of the former CEO and co-creator of Apple. While it’s unclear if that happened in real life, her admiration for Jobs is well known. She even adopted his signature black turtleneck, and, like Jobs, left college before graduation. 

Elizabeth Holmes

It was after she arrived at Stanford University in 2002 that Holmes, at the time a chemical engineering major, had the idea for Theranos, the BBC reports. The summer after her freshman year she worked at the Genome Institute, testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, according to the New Yorker.  The testing involved collecting blood samples with syringes. Holmes was frustrated that a separate systems were needed to dispense medication, and then another to monitor results. Holmes wanted to see if there was an easier, all-in-one solution for such testing.

From that spark, she came up with the idea to perform multiple tests at once, using just one drop of blood. She applied for a patent for the idea that summer. She then  formed a team to create a patch that could scan a patient for all sorts of tests with just a drop of blood — the idea of how to collect the blood evolved over time. But by age 19, she had already dropped out of the prestigious college and launched Theranos, prepared, like her her hero Steve Jobs, to change the world. 

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