Holmes was born in February 1984 in Washington, D.C. Her father, Christian Rasmus Holmes IV, worked at Enron as well as in the United States, Africa, and China in governmental agencies such as USAID. Her mother, Noel Anne (Dauost), worked as a congressional committee staffer. She has a brother, Christian Holmes V, who is the director of product management at Theranos.
Her parents' work in disaster relief encouraged Holmes to pursue science and service early in her life. When Holmes was nine, her family moved to Houston and then China, where—she later claimed—she started a business selling C++ compilers to Chinese universities. Growing up, her family moved frequently, which made it challenging for Holmes to make close friends. In a 2014 interview, she described herself growing up as having been a "happy loner."
After graduating from St. John's School in Houston in 2002, Holmes enrolled at Stanford University to study chemical engineering, but she left Stanford after 2 years before completing her undergraduate degree.
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