[Source: Lynh Bu, Arizona Republic]
Do a Google image search of the man who plans to develop the world’s largest health-care data center in Phoenix and two major figures crop up.
One is Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, dedicated to shrinking the time it takes to get drug discoveries from a laboratory to the hands of medical providers to save lives. In the medical field, he is considered a visionary.
The other is Magic Johnson, retired star of the Los Angeles Lakers. Soon-Shiong, an avid basketball fan, bought Johnson’s 4.5 percent share of the Lakers last year.
Despite living in Los Angeles, Soon-Shiong, 59, has poured millions of dollars into the Arizona economy.
In 2009, he opened a nanotechnology manufacturing plant in west Phoenix that produces a chemotherapy treatment for breast-cancer patients. This week, Mayor Phil Gordon announced Soon-Shiong would be investing even more in Phoenix as the doctor opens his non-profit Institute for Advanced Health downtown, helping boost the city’s image as a hub for the biomedical industry.
Forbes estimates Soon-Shiong has a net worth of more than $5.2 billion, ranking him 196 out of the world’s more than 1,100 billionaires.
Soon-Shiong has developed several life-saving drugs and cancer treatments. He goes by many labels: doctor, inventor, philanthropist and entrepreneur.
When medical breakthroughs are made, it could take more than 15 years to get that discovery from the lab to an actual patient for treatment. The Institute for Advanced Health is part of Soon-Shiong’s vision of streamlining the delivery of health care in America by creating a centralized database that houses biomedical information so hospitals and health-care providers can access the most up-to-date information on patients and how to treat specific conditions.
Philip Schneider, clinical professor and associate dean for the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arizona, predicted Soon-Shiong’s investment in downtown Phoenix would help grow the bioscience industry in Arizona.
“Dr. Soon-Shiong is well-known for his vision of making patient information much more widely available to other caregivers and improving the exchange of information,” Schneider said.
At an international technology conference in Florida weeks ago, Soon-Shiong wowed the audience as a keynote speaker, discussing his hopes of connecting medical research with the care patients receive and how medical providers are paid for the treatment. He showed videos of a shaking Parkinson’s patient using new technology to control his body and walk smoothly across a room. He had a demonstration of a chip for the blind that allowed one visually impaired patient to walk a red line marked on the ground.
“It would be one thing if Soon-Shiong simply wanted to point the finger at a broken system and then ramble on about rainbows and unicorns, but the lofty concepts he’s been toiling over are already being implemented in the real world,” Wireless Week wrote about Soon-Shiong’s 40-minute speech.
Soon-Shiong is the CEO and chairman of several other enterprises, including the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation and the Healthcare Transformation Institute, and founder of the National Coalition for Health Integration, according to his biography. He graduated from high school at 16 and earned his medical degree at 23.
He was born and raised in South Africa, the son of immigrants who fled China during World War II. Last fall, he sold his company, Abraxis BioScience, for $2.9 billion.
Jeffrey Trent, president and research director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, said several notable health-care professionals had put their faith in Phoenix. Among them are former Mayo Clinic CEO Denis Cortese, who assumed a position at Arizona State University in January 2010, and Nobel Prize winner Lee Hartwell, head of the Arizona-based Partnership for Personalized Medicine.
Trent said Soon-Shiong’s work would help Phoenix advance in the field of personalized health care.
“It brings together a terrific, focused collection of people with great knowledge in the biomedical and health-care world,” Trent said.