On the phone, Patrick Soon-Shiong speaks gradually and deliberately. He clearly trusts himself, but he or she doesn’ t trust journalists anymore.
A number of scathing articles by STAT News and Politico delivered stocks in his publicly-traded companies tumbling earlier this year. On Mon, he has an opportunity to change that narrative somewhat, with the introduction of data from human trials of his malignancy vaccine at a major oncology conference.
The particular stories allege that despite his bold claims, Soon-Shiong’ s NantWorks subsidiaries are underperforming and reliant upon contracts from other companies in the group. Reporters have also stated that one of his companies, NantHealth, has received agreements from institutions that had received donations from their nonprofit foundation — a major conflict of interest. This was not really adequately disclosed prior to the massive initial public offering associated with NantHealth, they argue, which may violate SEC laws.
For his part, Soon-Shiong, dismisses the accusations noting that part of the motivation behind those stories had been political: “ T hey had by no means written about me until they saw this picture associated with me with Trump. ”
Talking with MedCity on Wednesday after his recent appointment to some national health IT advisory committee, Soon-Shiong detailed the way the various threads of his career are converging toward a pivotal moment. A solution for healthcare is nearly within reach and he’ s poised to unveil exactly what he believes is a disruptive cancer therapy – the Nant vaccine – at the annual meeting from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chi town on Monday.
This tale clearly clashes with many other viewpoints in the industry.
How can you “ solve healthcare? ” How can you “ cure cancer” when tens of thousands of oncologists currently meeting within the Windy City can’ t?
Soon-Shiong might have achieved success as a scientist, as a CEO, and as training physician. That doesn’ t mean he’ s capable of fix the tremendously complex U. S. healthcare program.
He, however , begs in order to differ.
“ The opportunity now to give input into the complexity of health care is something I’ ve spent my life working on, ” he declared.
Soon-Shiong wants to innovate from the inside out, applying his 25 years of encounter wearing different healthcare hats.
It all began in the 1980s, with an early role as a NASA-funded scientist at UCLA trying out pancreatic transplants for patients with cancer or diabetes. That work led him to stem cells, which he or she discovered to be “ the exact heads and tails from the biology of cancer. ”
Stem cells drove him to understand the internal workings of proteins, which drove him to genomics and proteomics, which ultimately led to machine learning.
“ We required to create a machine learning tool because the biggest code in the world is the human genome. The next was the transcriptome which resulted in protein pathways. So we needed to create supercomputing, ” Soon-Shiong explained.
When he dove into each field, he found new equipment that could help tackle the best challenges within healthcare, including the need to have patient data obtainable in real time.
The availability of information would help to treat the world’ s seven billion dollars humans instead of a select few, something that he stressed frequently. To make this happen would require widespread interoperability.
“ So HIT [health IT] or interoperability is one element of really a huge question of integrating healthcare as a system; from the information domain, which is 21st Century medicine; to the delivery domain, that is dis-coordinated [sic] trial and error care; to the payer domain, which creates unintended consequences with fee-for-service. ”
If these 3 silos can be integrated into a single system, then healthcare could be transformed.
“ And once you’ ve done that you can create a new paradigm for cancer treatment, which would end up as what I call the particular cancer vaccine, ” Soon-Shiong said.
At ASCO, NantWorks will be unveiling the very first clinical data from trials of the vaccine. As with Soon-Shiong’ s ideas about healthcare, the cancer vaccine continues to be brewing for decades.
After operating as a physician-scientist, Soon-Shiong moved into drug development. In i b?rjan p? tv?tusentalet, he founded Los Angeles, California-based Abraxis Sciences. It was generally there he made his fortune — now estimated with around $8. 6 billion. Much of it came with the development of the cancer drug Abraxane and the subsequent sale for the company to Celgene in 2010.
Then, it had been time to take on the bigger integrated healthcare idea and a healing for cancer that would also disrupt the current paradigm.
Soon-Shiong began to build a network of for-profit plus nonprofit entities all operating under a holding company known as NantWorks. The website currently lists nine subsidiaries. Every was created to fill a specific gap in the healthcare problem he is trying to put together. Once it’ s complete, he can reign over it all — according to the NantWorks website.
“ NantWorks is the vision associated with Dr . Patrick Soon-Shiong: scientist, doctor, inventor and technologist. The NantWorks name derives from the Apache word, “ Nantan, ” which means he who speaks for the individuals. It has always been Dr . Patrick Soon-Shiong’ s hope plus dream to create a company that bridges people’ s desire to have knowledge with their ability to access it. NantWorks is that dream. ”
If it needs pointing out, it is really an unusual approach to company formation. The subsidiaries aren’ big t created with a business opportunity in mind. Their aim, instead, would be to execute one part of Soon-Shiong’ s vision and he provides personally committed money to the cause.
“ I’ m in the fortunate position associated with, I’ ve never asked anybody to donate anything. I’ ve not received any government grants. We’ ve used our own money when I could have done something different with it, to actually find a path to share this with the nation, ” he said.
There are some issues with the above description. According to investigations done by STAT News and Politico, Soon-Shiong has used his “ charity” the Chan Soon-Shiong NantHealth Foundation to boost a few of these businesses. There was internal collaboration and a grant given to the particular University of Utah by the foundation, which then spent the cash contracting the services of a Nant subsidiary.
Several also question whether the tax-exempt status of his basis is being abused. For his part, Soon-Shiong vehemently refuses any wrongdoing.
“ The truth about our foundation is we all donated $200 million in 2015. Didn’ t have a penny of any tax deduction, ” he mentioned. “ There’ s really not a word of reality in Politico. ”
It’ s possible that if NantWorks can deliver exactly what Soon-Shiong is confident it will, then the business issues will certainly fade away.
But can he really provide?
Developed inside NantKwest, a San Diego-based subsidiary, the cancer shot draws on the power of natural killer cells. This traces back to a paper Soon-Shiong published in the 1990s, which he said showed that natural killer tissues were one of the immune system’ s chief controls intended for stopping the spread of cancer.
The issue is that for years, medicine has turned to high dose radiation treatment and radiation to destroy malignant tumors. This inhibits the immune system – natural killer cells included – and allows cancers to metastasize.
Soon-Shiong said he wants to shift the paradigm toward boosting patients’ immune systems (i. e. immunotherapy). NantKwest has developed engineered natural killer cells that can be used in combination with current monoclonal antibody therapies to beef up the immune system and defeat back the tumor.
They’ re scalable and “ off-the-shelf” so-to-speak; there’ s no need for self-transplants as with CAR-T immunotherapies. Large-scale production capacity is currently being ramped up because; “ actually at the time of clinical trials, we know we’ re going to end up being overrun, ” he said.
More information will be presented at ASCO, but Soon-Shiong talks associated with complete and durable responses that will convert nonbelievers.
“ It’ s very clear that we are usually completely on the right path, ” Soon-Shiong declared. “ And then you’ ll see the pipeline, which I won’ big t reveal now. But we’ ll reveal it in the [ASCO] booths, in all its glory. ”
It’ s one thing to be self-confident, it’ s another to share unbridled optimism with the remaining world regarding a killer disease that one renowned author/oncologist has famously called the “ The Emperor of All Maladies”.
Aside from the self-assuredness, Soon-Shiong has drawn high temperature recently for sharing incredible patient stories for an unproven cancer therapy.
Healthcare Innovation is About the People this Affects. Learn more about Natural Killer Cells from Lisa with this video! #SolveCancer pic. twitter. com/ipvobv9Epk
— Dr . Pat Soon-Shiong (@DrPatSoonShiong) March 26, 2017
When asked whether he was overstepping the boundaries by marketing an experimental cancer treatment, Soon-Shiong didn’ t miss a beat.
“ Look, just so you know; I’ ve already been working with the FDA for 15 years, ” he or she said. “ I’ m completely aware of the needs. What we did was put up reports of patients that will wanted to tell their stories to doctors, to educate all of them. And you know, you can go on the website and look at those people stories. And there’ s no marketing of something, other than to tell the patient story with regard to the clinical demo effect of natural killer cells. ”
Whenever asked why his message is so different from the standard medical tone, Soon-Shiong said he knows how close he could be to a cure. As a physician, he has seen firsthand patients with metastatic cancers that have lived for a long time thanks to the cancer vaccine.
“ So the hopefulness is not born out of 100 % pure hypothesis, it’ s born out of the patients that I in fact touch and feel and see. I think we have a sort of objective to be able to share that… optimism. Because there is hope. ”
Not share in an unresponsible way, he adds. The vaccine is still being examined in clinical trials, but he does feel appreciated to share that optimism. Even as conservative scientists recoil as well as his pronouncements mean only one thing: Detractors plus supporters will have their eyes and ears peeled for that vaccine data on Monday.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Soon-Shiong’ s subsidiaries had not raised venture capital. Per his quotation, they did not receive government grants or angel expense.
Photo: Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images