Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes begins defence case

Holmes (above, in 2019) is accused of making false claims about Theranos' supposedly innovative technology, PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA (REUTERS) - Lawyers for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes began to present witnesses in her defence against fraud charges on Friday (Nov 19), but it remained unclear whether the former Silicon Valley executive who once promised to revolutionise the blood testing industry would testify.

Over the course of the two-month trial, jurors in San Jose, California, have heard testimony from more than two dozen witnesses for the prosecution, including patients and investors whom prosecutors say Holmes deceived. At the close of their case, prosecutors moved to dismiss one count of fraud regarding a patient.

Holmes' defence attorneys began by calling paralegal Trent Middleton to the stand to offer summaries of Theranos documents.

They have said they also plan to call Fabrizio Bonanni, who joined Theranos as a director in 2016. Bonanni will testify about the company's technology, they said in court.

Defence attorney Lance Wade told jurors during opening arguments in September that Holmes was a hardworking young entrepreneur who had underestimated the obstacles Theranos faced before it failed.

Holmes is accused of making false claims about Theranos, including that its devices could run a range of tests more quickly and accurately than conventional laboratory means from a drop of blood from a finger prick.

Once touted as the Steve Jobs of biotech for her company's supposedly innovative technology, Holmes faces nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy.

She has pleaded not guilty.

Founded by Holmes at the age of 19 in 2003, Theranos garnered attention from private investors and was once valued at US$9 billion (S$12 billion).

Its fortunes waned after the Wall Street Journal published a series of articles starting in 2015 that suggested the Theranos devices were flawed and inaccurate.

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