Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire biomedical entrepreneur and owner of the Los Angeles Times, has moved on two fronts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic in recent weeks.
Soon-Shiong has acquired a Los Angeles hospital out of bankruptcy and plans to establish a coronavirus research facility on its campus. And he has pivoted his two immunotherapy companies to develop potential therapies and vaccines to fight the virus.
Soon-Shiong’s bid to buy the shuttered St. Vincent Medical Center in Westlake from bankrupt Verity Health System for $135 million was approved April 10 by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Ernest Robles.
But the deal came with some controversy. Soon-Shiong’s bid had come under fire from state Attorney General Xavier Becerra because a company under Soon-Shiong’s control — Integrity Healthcare — was also the management company for Verity Health and one of its secured creditors in the bankruptcy proceeding.
Soon-Shiong agreed to acquire the hospital personally instead of having his family foundation buy it, and Becerra withdrew his objections to the sale.
In addition, Soon-Shiong agreed to honor the three-month lease agreement reached in March by the state with Verity to turn the hospital — which shut down in January — into a facility to treat Covid-19 patients. The hospital reopened under the lease terms on April 13.
Soon-Shiong also announced he would establish a coronavirus research facility at the hospital.
Also fighting the current coronavirus contagion, two of Soon-Shiong’s biomedical companies — publicly traded NantKwest Inc. and private company ImmunityBio Inc. — jointly announced April 14 that they were in discussions with the Food and Drug Administration about developing immunotherapy-based treatments and vaccines to combat Covid-19.
The announcement said the two companies are combining their research and development capabilities for this effort.
It also said they have applied for Investigational New Drug applications with the FDA for one vaccine drug against the coronavirus and three therapeutic drugs to treat patients with various stages of the disease.
Clinical trials for these drugs could begin as soon as this quarter, the announcement said.
“We’re in a race against time, but I am confident that, as a result of the incredible hard work the NantKwest, ImmunityBio, and the global scientific communities are undertaking, we will find effective therapeutics and vaccines against this coronavirus,” Soon-Shiong said in the announcement.
He noted that ImmunityBio had experience developing a vaccine for the H1N1 flu virus, which caused a pandemic in 2009, and that it is applying a modified version of that vaccine drug platform to fight the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
NantKwest and ImmunityBio are both part of Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks family of companies. NantKwest is headquartered in Culver City, while ImmunityBio is based in El Segundo. Soon-Shiong is chief executive of both companies.
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