After being called a “madame hispana” in an email from her former boyfriend, tech billionaire Elizabeth Holmes, to Newsweek, she’s fighting back.
The University of California, San Francisco, has accused the 30-year-old founder of Theranos, the blood-testing company, of forcing her to quit her job as CEO in 2016 by skirting responsibility for poor lab safety practices.
But many people have an uncomfortable tale of professional exploitation, and that doesn’t stop companies from hiring people to make them forget all about it.
Holmes insists that George O’Neill, her former partner and ex-boyfriend, never abused her.
“I did not suffer abuse,” she said. “George never abused me. He never used drugs on me. He never sexually abused me.”
Holmes, in an essay on Medium, told a more nuanced story about how she met O’Neill and why they eventually split up. She blamed him for making her become paranoid, while he said she was struggling with depression.
O’Neill himself is also in the news — he’s facing questioning about his involvement in a project developing a new blood-testing technology.
In a cryptic post on Medium, which he later deleted, O’Neill denied that he abused Holmes, saying that they were “great lovers” and that he “did not appropriate any of [her] personal assets, money or stock.”
That post, and the podcast Holmes recorded about the matter, were made on July 1, the same day that the Daily Beast published an interview with Dr. Steven Pearson, who was Holmes’ health care safety officer and a supervisor at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based lab that Holmes and O’Neill oversaw together.
In the Daily Beast interview, Pearson claimed that the technology of the blood-testing machines tested by Holmes and O’Neill allowed clients to carry out multiple tests per day, and that required carrying in small amounts of blood on a mini straw.
But Dr. Peter Akren, a toxicologist at Emory University, told the Mail on Sunday that this sounds unlikely. “Nothing suitable for carrying blood with can actually be carried,” he said.
Theranos has had trouble with blood-testing technology. In 2016, the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued guidance stating that blood tests “should either take only one device or not more than two.”
The company said in a statement that the guidance “still holds true,” and that it has “been working for a number of years to adhere to its industry standards.”
Nevertheless, Kaiser, for one, is no longer using Theranos blood tests.