St. Vincent Medical Center in Westlake.

St. Vincent Medical Center in Westlake.

After a rough inaugural year as a publicly traded company, has ImmunityBio Inc. finally turned the corner?
The Culver City-based biotech company announced a series of moves in recent weeks that billionaire founder and Executive Chairman Patrick Soon-Shiong hopes have staunched the inexorable share selloff that has dogged the company since its second day of trading as a public company in March. The last of these announcements, on Jan. 3, triggered a 24% rebound in the share price, to close at $7.53 a share, its highest price in nearly two months.


On Dec. 20, ImmunityBio announced that Soon-Shiong’s personal investment company, Nant Capital, had loaned it $300 million, the major component of a $470 million financing package designed to provide capital for the company to expand operations to manufacture the “natural killer” cells that form the basis of its immunotherapy technology. That technology is most immediately being applied to the development of a second-generation Covid-19 vaccine.


The money would also be used as working capital as the company readies a biologics license application with the Food and Drug Administration for an immune system therapy to treat bladder cancer patients. ImmunityBio also announced Dec. 20 that it intends to file this BLA application in the first quarter of this year.


This financing package substituted for a previously announced plan to sell $500 million worth of additional shares through an “at the market” sales agreement with New York investment company Jefferies Group. That additional offering would have diluted the value of shares.


“With the $300 million financing from Nant Capital combined with the equity raised over the last nine months, we have made the decision to pause the At-the-Market offering, and we are well-positioned to further accelerate development of our oncology and Covid-19 trials,” Richard Adcock, ImmunityBio’s chief executive, said in the Dec. 20 announcement.


By far the largest investor in ImmunityBio is Soon-Shiong himself; he directly or indirectly controls 314 million shares, representing a 78.8% stake in the company. With such a large controlling stake, Soon-Shiong is the most impacted by any significant movement in ImmunityBio’s share price.


Then, on Jan. 3, came the announcement that triggered the major rebound in ImmunityBio’s share price: It announced it had completed setting up its joint venture with Emeryville-based biotech firm Amyris Inc. that had been announced in early November. The joint venture’s sole initial mission is to speed the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.

 
Under the joint venture that officially launched last week, Amyris will contribute its RNA technology while ImmunityBio will contribute its technology to manufacture “natural killer” immune cells.


As all of this movement has been taking place with Soon-Shiong’s main biotech venture, another part of his medical agenda appears to have stalled: the repurposing of the 7.5-acre St. Vincent Medical Center in L.A.’s Westlake district. Soon-Shiong’s Nant Capital purchased the hospital for $135 million in 2020 out of the bankruptcy proceeding of its previous owner, Verity Health System.


When the purchase was announced in April 2020, Soon-Shiong said publicly his intention was to convert the five-building, 674,000-square-foot facility into a Covid research center.


But in November 2020, Soon-Shiong quietly turned over the campus to Chicago-
based real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. to “reposition” the facility.
A spokesman with the Los Angeles office of Jones Lang LaSalle said there had been no significant developments, leases or other announcements to report in the repositioning process. And a spokesman for Soon-Shiong’s Nant Capital did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

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