Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos

Inventing cheap, convenient diagnostics--without the syringe

Affiliation: Theranos
Title: Founder and CEO

Starting a med tech company hasn't made a billionaire of many. But that's exactly what it's done for Elizabeth Holmes. At only age 30, she made the latest edition of the Forbes 400 list as the youngest self-made woman billionaire. This is her first appearance on that list of the fabulously wealthy.

Her net worth is based on a $9 billion valuation assigned to the private diagnostics company Theranos, in which Forbes said she retains a 50% stake. The startup has raised a reported total of $400 million from VCs. Venture investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, ATA Ventures, Tako Ventures and Continental Properties.

This year Theranos has added a series of heavyweights to its board--making it seem likely that the company is gearing up for an IPO. Among the startup's newly added directors are epidemiologist and former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. William Foege; U.S. Senator William Frist, who is also a heart and lung transplant surgeon; and Riley Bechtel, chairman of engineering and construction conglomerate Bechtel Group.

They joined an existing board that was already quite impressive including former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, former Senator Samuel Nunn, former Chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo Richard Kovacevich and retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis.

Theranos aims to be a major diagnostics player, on par with some of the biggest, most established labs. Unlike other labs, Theranos' technology allows it to do blood-based lab tests with only a few drops of blood that can be drawn with just a finger stick rather than a syringe--that's a tiny fraction of what other labs need and could make a big difference for patients requiring multiple tests. Theranos offers more than 200 tests now but is gearing up to offer more than 1,000. It's certified by CLIA as well as by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and licensed in almost every state.

Its well-connected board of former top government officials may make it easier to go after the enormous Medicare and Medicaid patient population. It would be a good deal for the U.S. government as well--test prices are usually one-half to one-quarter of what independent laboratories charge and as little as one-tenth of what hospital lab tests cost, according to an elaborate Fortune profile of Holmes in June.

Theranos already has a partnership with Walgreens to offer diagnostic testing services on site at the drugstores. The service was available at 21 locations in June but is slated to roll out to many of Walgreens' 8,200 stores in all 50 states. Prices for the tests are entirely transparent, listed on Theranos' site.

Holmes started Theranos after she dropped out of Stanford University at age 19. Her customary black turtleneck routinely draws comparisons to tech icon Steve Jobs.

For more:
Special Report: Top 10 Medical Device VC Deals of 2010 - Theranos

-- Stacy Lawrence (email | Twitter)

Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos