The defense for the embattled billionaire science entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes, rested its case Thursday afternoon with not much new to offer, but it was likely the final opportunity for some kind of reckoning for a woman who came to symbolize the hype and danger of building a medical company on the backs of a young, ambitious public relations machine.
Holmes appeared in court in an unusual light green dress — black stilettos and a small hint of makeup — an apparent dig at federal prosecutors who had accused her of using deceit and then inventing a drug that no one had ever used for neurological disorders as part of a pharma fraud scheme. A jury in San Francisco found her guilty in late August of securities fraud and obstructing an internal investigation, both felonies.
Related Story (Strangely) Strange Flowers Are a Scandal in the Land of Elizabeth Holmes The enterprise was never a real hospital, says prosecution witness, Princeton neurosurgeon and clinical specialist, David Black. Instead, he says, it was concocted by Holmes, a Harvard undergraduate enrolled in its program to become a neurosurgeon.
For years, the nonprofit Bay Area Laboratory Company, or Balyo, was (and was almost certainly still) the most envied small biotech company in the world. In 2010, investors paid Holmes $43 million for the company, a company dedicated to developing pharmaceuticals for patients.
Balyo had a major new product on the market by the summer of 2013, once FDA approval was secured.
Then the FDA, under a critical new director, derailed all attempts to get medications approved in the United States, and the Silicon Valley buzz died. Despite earning millions, Holmes eventually lost her company entirely in 2015. The jury’s decision likely sticks in the craw of anyone who experienced biotech’s bonanza and bust cycles.
The jury is now deliberating the 43 counts of securities fraud on which Holmes was convicted and how much prison time she should face. She’s facing 115 years behind bars. A sentencing hearing is expected later this month.