Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Found Guilty

After deliberating for more than 40 hours over six days, jurors in the Elizabeth Holmes criminal trial have found Holmes guilty on four of 11 charges of defrauding the company’s investors and patients. She was found not guilty on four counts. NPR reports: When the verdict was read, Holmes had no visible reaction. She sat masked in the courtroom and later hugged members of her family in the front row of the court. Holmes could face up to 20 years in prison, although legal experts say her sentence is likely to be less than that. During the nearly four-month federal trial in San Jose, jurors heard from over 30 witnesses called by prosecutors. Together, they painted Holmes as a charismatic entrepreneur who secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for a medical device that never delivered on her promises. When Theranos’ technology fell short, the government argued, Holmes covered it up and kept insisting that the machines would transform how diseases are diagnosed through blood tests. The jury’s decision followed seven days of deliberations. Still, the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on three charges, which will be resolved at a later date..

Holmes took the witness stand for more than 20 hours to defend herself. She accused her ex-boyfriend and former deputy at Theranos, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, of sexual abuse, saying that clouded her sense of judgement. Balwani faces a separate fraud trial in the same court in February. Holmes also showed remorse on the stand. She said she wished she had handled some key business matters differently. But she blamed others for the downfall of Theranos. She said lab directors whom she had trusted were the ones closest to the technology. And she said Balwani, not her, oversaw the company’s financial forecasts, which were later discovered to be grossly inflated. Yet the government offered evidence that Holmes had an iron grip on Theranos’ operations. Prosecutors argued she did not stop — and even helped spread — falsehoods about the company that misled investors into pouring millions into the startup. Theranos’ value, once estimated at more than $9 billion, was ultimately squandered.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Sugar Additive Trehalose Could Have Helped Spread Dangerous Superbug Around the US

A sugar additive used in several foods could have helped spread a seriously dangerous superbug around the US, according to a 2018 study. ScienceAlert reports: The finger of blame is pointed squarely at the sugar trehalose, found in foods such as nutrition bars and chewing gum. If the findings are confirmed, it’s a stark warning that even apparently harmless additives have the potential to cause health issues when introduced to our food supply. In this case, trehalose is being linked with the rise of two strains of the bacterium Clostridium difficile, capable of causing diarrhea, colitis, organ failure, and even death. The swift rise of the antibiotic-resistant bug has become a huge problem for hospitals in recent years, and the timing matches up with the arrival of trehalose.

“In 2000, trehalose was approved as a food additive in the United States for a number of foods from sushi and vegetables to ice cream,” said one of the researchers, Robert Britton from the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, back in January 2018. “About three years later the reports of outbreaks with these lineages started to increase. Other factors may also contribute, but we think that trehalose is a key trigger.”

The C. difficile lineages Britton is referring to are RT027 and RT078. When the researchers analysed the genomes of these two strains, they found DNA sequences that enabled them to feed off low doses of trehalose sugar very efficiently. In fact, these particular bacteria need about 1,000 times less trehalose to live off than other varieties of C. difficile, thanks to their genetic make-up. […] It’s still not certain that trehalose has contributed to the rise of C. difficile, but the study results and the timing of its approval as an additive are pretty compelling. More research will now be needed to confirm the link. According to figures from the CDC, “C. difficile was responsible for half a million infections across the year and 29,000 deaths within the first 30 days of diagnosis,” adds ScienceAlert. The findings were published in the journal Nature.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.