Kevin Cody

Soon-Shiong’s promise

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Patrick Soon-Shiong. Photo by Kevin Cody

 

Even before moving the Los Angeles Times to El Segundo, Patrick Soon-Shiong was drawing national attention to his adopted city

by Kevin Cody

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s decision, after purchasing the Los Angeles Times in June,  to move the newspaper from its century-old headquarters in downtown Los Angeles to El Segundo garnered national attention. But that is not the most audacious announcement Soon-Shiong has made since making El Segundo the hub of his wide-ranging interests.

Last September, during his acceptance of the 2017 El Segundo Champion of Business award, he declared, “El Segundo may become the center of biotechnology of the U.S., if not the world,”

And then he announced his intention to cure cancer.

“Every individual is born with cells that kill cancer. We have discovered that cell, what we call natural killer cells. Imagine if we could target natural killer cells to track down and literally explode cancer in the pancreas, brain or any other cancer target. This is not a pipe dream,” he said.

Soon-Shiong showed the Champion of Business dinner attendees an animation video of natural killer cells blowing up a cancerous tumor.

“Those are not basketballs,” he said of the killer cells, eliciting laughter from the audience. Soon-Shiong is part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, which had recently opened a training center and offices in El Segundo, near the newly opened Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Medicine. The evening’s emcee was Laker president Tim Harris.

In explaining how natural killer cells work, he suggested that current cancer treatments are akin to bloodletting.

“We are challenging everything done over the past 40 years of giving patients high dose chemotherapy. In essence what we’ve been doing, inadvertently, is wiping out every natural killer cell in every cancer patient.”

“Clearly, we face difficult challenges. We need to re-educate the entire cadre of doctors, scientists, nurses, and researchers.”

Additionally, he said, “We need the manufacturing capacity to produce billions of billions of natural killer cells. It would be unconscionable to release this information and not have the capacity to treat every cancer patient.”

Soon-Shiong said the natural killer cells he is manufacturing at his El Segundo facilities will be administered “like a flu shot.”

“I’ve always believed that chemotherapy doesn’t need to be toxic and cancer needn’t be fatal,” he said.

Soon-Shiong’s bold promise to cure cancer is backed by his history of medical achievements that include over 100 published scientific papers and over 200 patents. In 2005, he received FDA approval for the cancer treatment drug Abraxane. In 2010, he sold the company that manufactured the drug for $3.8 billion. In 2016, Los Angeles Business Journal ranked him number 1 on its wealthiest Angelenos list, with an estimated worth of $15.4 billion. (Fellow South African and neighboring South Bay business owner Elon Musk was second on the list, with an estimated worth of $13.3 billion). In 2016, Soon-Shiong took public his biotech start-up NantWorks. The company now occupies six El Segundo sites, including the former Raytheon and DirecTV buildings, spread across 23 acres.

He opened the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Medicine on Mariposa Street, just east of Pacific Coast Highway, in July 2017.

“In this building, we will be conducting trials to prove the hypothesis that we can treat cancer patients without high doses of chemotherapy. This institute will be addressing all cancer types at all stages of the disease. I see the institute as an imaging center tied to a transfusion center, tied to a state of the art radiation center,” he said.

“The hope is real. We can lead the nation,” he said.

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