Elizabeth Holmes is likely the name you first associate with Theranos, the now-defunct company once poised to revolutionize the blood testing industry. At the age of 19, Holmes dropped out of Stanford to found the biotech startup, which aimed to perform hundreds of tests using a single drop of blood. However, Theranos’ technology proved unable to follow through with its founder’s promises, despite raising over $900 million from investors.
As the saga of Theranos played out in courts, exposés, podcasts, and shows like Hulu’s “The Dropout,” details about Holmes’ romantic relationship with the company’s former president and chief operating Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani have also captured public interest. Balwani is played by actor Naveen Andrews in “The Dropout," and actor Amanda Seyfried transformed into Holmes.
On July 7, Balwani was found guilty of 12 counts of fraud.
Balwani went to trial in March for the same charges that Holmes faced during her trial: Two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. Balwani has pleaded not guilty. In January, Holmes — who pleaded not guilty — was found guilty on one count of conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud. Balwani will receive a sentence alongside Holmes this September.
Below, find details that inspired Balwani’s story on “The Dropout,” and get updates for where he is now.
Balwani and Holmes’s relationship began in Beijing
“The Dropout” shows Balwani and Holmes’ first meeting, which took place during Stanford’s Mandarin language immersion program Beijing in 2002, according to “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou.
They were in different phases of life. Holmes, 18, was heading into her freshman year at Stanford. Balwani was 37. A software executive, Balwani made a fortune before the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, earning about $40 million in the acquisition of his company per the New York Times.
He started working for Theranos in 2004
Two years later, in 2004, Holmes left Stanford University to start Theranos. In 2017, Balwani admitted to giving Holmes a personal loan to use for Theranos in 2009.
“The company was low on cash, and I knew of the mission and that what the company was trying to do was paramount, and I offered to help the company, and I ended up giving a $13 million personal loan,” he explained in a 2017 deposition, obtained on ABC’s “The Dropout” podcast. “It was interest-free. It was a good-faith loan.”
Balwani joined Theranos as president and COO in 2009, six months after giving a personal loan. As prospectors pointed out during his trial per NBC, Balwani “had no medical degree, no experience in blood testing, (and) no experience building medical devices or running a lab.”
Balwani worked at Theranos until 2016, per the Justice Department.
Holmes and Balwani had a romantic relationship
Unbeknownst to Theranos investors or employees, Holmes and Balwani were carrying out a romantic relationship, and had lived together since 2005, per “Bad Blood.”
Balwani faced the same charges as Holmes and pled not guilty to all
Balwani’s trial began in California in March 2022 and ended on July 7 with a guilty verdict. The disgraced executive faced two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, as well as nine counts of actual wire fraud.
Similar to Holmes’ separate trial (which ended in Jan. 2022), a jury was asked to determine whether Balwani intended to deceive Theranos’ investors about patients about the capabilities of the company’s blood-testing machines, or if he was unaware of their foibles the entire time.
During the trial’s opening statements on March 22, a federal prosecutor cast Balwani as Holmes’ right-hand man, helping sell investors, patients, and health providers on Theranos’ machines’ testing capabilities.
Conversely, Balwani’s lawyer, according to the New York Times, chose to deflect blame onto Holmes in his opening statement. “Sunny Balwani did not start Theranos. He did not control Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes, not Sunny, founded Theranos and built Theranos,” Balwani’s lawyer, Stephen Cazares, said.
Balwani was found guilty of 12 counts of fraud
In early July, a jury of five men and seven women found the former top executive of Theranos guilty of 12 counts of fraud, according to the New York Times. The jury spent a total of 32 hours in deliberation before producing the guilty verdict and convicting Balwani of 10 counts of wire fraud and an additional two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Balwani and Holmes’ texts give insight into their relationship
During both Holmes and Balwani’s trials, text exchanges were submitted as evidence. According to NBC, the texts amounted to 12,000 total.
Some texts showed how they perceived their relationship. In one 2014 exchange shared during Holmes’ trial per the Washington Post, Balwani wrote, “I love you. I admire your wisdom and your strength; and your decency and kindness.” Holmes replied, “You know what these things coming from you mean to me. What you say to me equals my confidence.”
Other texts showed their approach to the business. In April 2022, NBC provided an exchange included in Balwani’s trial, in which Balwani texted Holmes, “...this business…that’s why the universe brought us together.” Holmes replied, “I know.”
In another text, sent in July 2015, Balwani wrote, “I am responsible for everything at Theranos,” per NBC.
Balwani recently sold the home he shared with Holmes
Court testimony revealed that in 2013, Balwani and Elizabeth created an LLC to purchase a $9 million, five-bedroom, seven-bathroom home based in Atherton, CA.
According to Market Watch, Balwani sold the house for $15.8 million in Jan. 2022.