Drug billionaire to match cancer with treatment via blazing-fast DNA analysis

The richest man in Los Angeles got that way by building drug companies. Now, he wants to build a nation-wide system that allows doctors to decode their patients' tumors to match them with the proper treatment.

Patrick Soon-Shiong teamed up with Verizon ($VZ), Intel ($INTC), AT&T ($T) and Blue Shield of California, among others, to set up a supercomputer-based, high-speed data network for sharing DNA and other patient data. Using technology developed by his company NantHealth, the network could perform genetic analysis on individual tumors in less than a minute, Reuters reports. Now, similar analyses can take up to 10 weeks.

Putting that kind of genetic information within easy reach would not only accelerate drug matchmaking for current patients and products. It also could generate the kind of data that would speed development of even more treatments specially designed to attack cancers with particular genetic characteristics.

"This is something the federal government should have done, but we waited and waited for them," Soon-Shiong told the news service. "It's unconscionable that cancer patients get the wrong diagnosis 30% of the time and that it takes so long to treat them with appropriate drugs for their cancer."

Soon-Shiong started APP Pharmaceuticals ($APPX), the injectable drugs specialist, and sold it to Germany's Fresenius Kabi Pharmaceuticals in 2008, in a $4.6 billion deal; he owned an 82% stake. In 2010, he sold Abraxis BioScience, an APP spinoff, to Celgene ($CELG). His stake was worth $2.4 billion, Reuters says. He bought NantHealth from Celgene for $135 million, and since has been developing the technology for the cancer-DNA effort.

"Incorrect care that leads to a loss of life is unacceptable," Soon-Shiong said at an event announcing the NantHealth technology. "And from today onward, it will no longer be necessary. Doctors will finally be able to provide higher-quality treatment in a dramatically more efficient, effective, and affordable manner."

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