#1 - Patrick Soon-Shiong

Net Worth: $6 billion +62%

Last Year: $3.7 billion

Age: 56

Residence: West Los Angeles

Source of Wealth: Pharmaceuticals

The Money:

Savvy South African-born researcher and surgeon sold generic drug maker APP Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $3.7 billion last year ?with his take 80 percent.

The Buzz:

Befitting a year in which fortunes based on real estate and finances were pummeled, L.A.? newest billionaire king is none other than a bespectacled scientist.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a former UCLA researcher and developer of a cutting-edge cancer drug, vaulted from No. 7 to the top of the Wealthiest Angelenos list ?with a bullet.

The biotech entrepreneur, who holds no fewer than 30 patents, saw his wealth increase by an astounding 62 percent at a time when other billionaires counted themselves lucky to break even.

Soon-Shiong had a huge payday last year when German health care company Fresenius SE handed over $3.7 billion for his generic-drug maker APP Pharmaceuticals ?a once-downtrodden company he bought for just $75 million a decade ago.

? don't feel any different, except that I have more liquidity to accelerate the things we want to do,?he told the Business Journal a few months back.

That giant cash payout makes up the majority of his fortune today, but generic penicillin is not what has driven the South African native for the past decade. He has largely focused on gaining approval and now expanding markets for the fruit of his long research career: the breast cancer drug Abraxane, a new class of drug based on nanotechnology.

Abraxane, manufactured by his other company, Abraxis BioScience Inc., saw its sales top $300 million last year and is now a certifiable hit. Though the share price of the West L.A. company is a bit off, it accounts for $1.6 billion of his net worth.

But the restless Soon-Shiong is already moving on to new challenges, perhaps reflecting his personal history: He grew up the son of Chinese immigrant parents in apartheid-era South Africa, broke barriers in the country? segregated medical community and moved to the United States to pursue his medical research.

He retired last month as chief executive of Abraxis BioScience, though he continues as chairman and still controls 83 percent of shares. But he? keeping his hand in the laboratory as chief executive of spinoff Abraxis Health, formed in January to develop cutting-edge technologies to fight disease.

He? also racking up frequent-flier miles to the East Coast to help shepherd a public-private initiative to create a national medical information system intended to speed medical breakthroughs and improve patient care.