Home / News / India /  Beware of tech hype

New Delhi: A high-profile fraud in the US is getting attention for more reasons than one. Sunny Balwani, former chief operating officer of blood-testing startup Theranos, who has been sentenced by a US court to 13 years in jail for fraud, is said to be of South Asian origin. He was reportedly born in Pakistan, though his family moved to India before moving to the US. The case itself is like a Bollywood flick. After joining Theranos, Balwani got into a relationship with founder Elizabeth Holmes, who was earlier sentenced to 11 years in prison. The firm collapsed in 2018, and the two were found guilty of having defrauded investors of millions of dollars by claiming that the startup had invented a revolutionary technology that could carry out a wide range of tests with a few drops of blood, faster and more accurately than conventional methods. The claims turned out false, but not before many patients were scandalously misdiagnosed. The story is a lesson in how tech breakthrough hype can sweep up an entire startup ecosystem. That the company was able to raise huge sums without elementary fact-checks shows how science, whose bedrock is scepticism, can get the go-by when big money beckons.

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