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Blood-Test Startups Try to Crawl Out From the Shadow of Elizabeth Holmes

The ghost of Theranos looms over the biotech industry, but entrepreneurs are working to bring less-audacious versions of Holmes’s vision to life.

Elizabeth Holmes Theranos illustration
Illustration: Stephanie Davidson/Bloomberg
Corrected

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As Daniel Levner tells it, the “Theranos effect” came in three distinct waves. First, he says, when the company was at its peak, many investors wouldn’t bother funding other blood-testing startups, because how could anyone compete with the youngest, female, self-made billionaire? Then, as news broke that the technology might not work as advertised, investors began to wince at any sight of blood businesses. Finally, when a seminal book on the company’s spiral to dissolution hit stores last year, it became clear that the problems were unique to Theranos, says Levner, who co-founded a blood-test startup. The account described Elizabeth Holmes as a zealot chasing a dream without the science or ethics to carry her there.