In January 2014, an article containing an unconventional proposal was published in the American online media HuffPost. “The poorer the person, the greater the risk of receiving inappropriate treatment and the lower the survival rate. Tragic apartheid (South Africa’s extreme racial discrimination policy) is also occurring in the medical field. “We need to create a new model for cancer treatment by integrating the genetic sequencing data of individual patients held by hospitals and research institutes across the United States.” The person who advocated big data-based diagnosis and personalized cancer treatment, which are taken for granted today, nine years ago was Patrick Soon-Shiong (1952~ ) , a former professor of surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles ( UCLA ) . Xiong called his argument the ‘Manhattan Project of medicine.’ Just as thousands of top scientists, led by Julius Robert Oppenheimer, worked together to create the atomic bomb and end World War II, the idea is to work together in medicine to overcome cancer and other incurable diseases. It was like a dream at the time, but no one in the medical and biotechnology world dismissed it as ‘bullshit.’ This is because the life of Xiong, who was born as the son of Chinese immigrants in South Africa and became the world’s best doctor through his own efforts and created a cure for an incurable disease, was a miracle in itself.
◇World’s first pancreatic islet transplant
Xiong’s parents, a member of China’s Hakka minority group, lived in Guangdong Province and immigrated to South Africa to escape the Japanese invasion during World War II. Xiong’s father was an Oriental medicine doctor, but he opened a small shop in South Africa. Xiong said, “Sometimes watching his father brew medicine gave him the belief that the human body has the power to protect itself.” He graduated from high school at the age of 16, entered the University of the Witwatersrand, and became a doctor at the age of 23. Until then, Xiong was only slightly better than his peers. At the time, in South Africa, Chinese doctors were treated similarly to black people. Only 50% of the salary of white colleagues was paid, and even black patients refused to receive treatment from Xiong.
Xiong, who left for the University of British Columbia in Canada , became the youngest professor of surgery at UCLA in 1983 , and his hidden talents began to be revealed in the operating room. People around him called him ‘an incredible surgeon.’ One of his colleagues said of Xiong, who took the lead in carrying out the surgery while everyone was shaking their heads, “It seemed like the gene for helping people seemed to run through his veins.”
Xiong is UCLAThe first successful pancreas transplant attracted attention, but he was not satisfied with this. He was the first in the world to transplant insulin-producing pancreatic islets (islets of Langerhans) to a patient with type 1 diabetes, and also attempted transplantation of pig islets into humans. Although it was evaluated as a ‘new era in diabetes treatment’, the patient committed suicide a few years later when his health deteriorated again. Xiong decided to take on a bigger challenge than just treating individual patients. He intended to conquer the disease itself by developing a treatment, not surgery.
◇Development of blockbuster new drug Abraxane
After leaving the hospital in 1991, Xiong founded VivoRX, a venture company that researches diabetes and pancreatic cancer. Forbes commented, “Xion’s experience in the fields of transplantation and cancer was optimal for understanding the immune system, which is the key to vaccines and treatments.” Xiong himself said, “As I worked across various fields, I came to view the human body as a biological system rather than as small cells.” Xiong had the idea of wrapping taxol, a chemical
treatment developed by the U.S. National Cancer Institute in the 1960s, with protein so that it could be more easily delivered to tumors. To make this idea a reality, Xiong acquired Fujisawa, a publicly traded company that sells generic injectable drugs, in 1998 and obtained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) .) After receiving approval, a new drug was launched in 2005. This was the moment when Abraxane, a blockbuster treatment for severe lung, breast, and pancreatic cancer, was introduced to the world. Abraxane has been praised as a ‘new light in cancer treatment’ as it has become an alternative for cancer patients who have failed standard treatments. Some scholars discount Abraxane as a modified version of Taxol and say it is not a true new drug, but the general assessment in the medical community is that “pancreatic cancer is divided into before and after the advent of Abraxane.” As of 2021, Abraxane’s annual sales amount to $1.2 billion (approximately 1.58 trillion won).
◇Serial entrepreneur Xiong, who moves between bio and tech,
is a serial entrepreneur representing the bio industry. He established Abraxis Bioscience and APP Pharmaceuticals, and NantQuest, founded in 2002, worked with Immunity Bio, another company of Xiong, to develop natural killer cells (NK cells) that the immune system uses to destroy infected cells . focused on. NantQuest’s new drug candidate, NK-92 , made headlines in 2018 when it cured Nevada Senator Harry Reid’s severe pancreatic cancer. However, in the medical world, Reed’s case is an extremely exceptional case, and NK can be used by anyone.I think cell therapy still has many barriers to overcome. Xiong also started the biotech business in 2007 by establishing companies called Nant Health and Nant Works. The ambition was to “open a new chapter in medicine by converging ultra-low-power semiconductor technology, supercomputing, security networks, and artificial intelligence.” Xiong said, “The quill in the Nantworks logo represents Leonardo da Vinci’s perspective. If there were a modern-day da Vinci, he would use a supercomputer instead of a quill,” and added, “Using a supercomputing system, we can analyze the genetic data of tumor samples in 47 seconds.” And, he said, “results and prescriptions can be sent anywhere in the world in 18 seconds.” Xiong believes that if we clearly understand the human body with more data, we can win the war against numerous diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Forbes said of Xiong’s plan, “If it becomes a reality, it will be the closest thing to the diagnostic device ‘Tricorder’ from the science fiction drama Star Trek.” Xiong has started or been involved in 20 companies so far.
◇In business, he resembles Musk.
Xiong amassed enormous wealth through his animalistic business sense and cool-headed judgment. He was followed by the title of the world’s richest doctor, and in 2017, with an annual salary of $324.6 million, he surpassed Google’s Sundar Pichai and Apple’s Tim Cook to be named the world’s highest paid doctor. When a new drug or product he envisioned was released, he handed it over to a company that assessed the best value and then went on to find a new business. When VivoRX, the first company, developed a diabetes candidate using gel extracted from seafood, it sold it to a German pharmaceutical company for $3.7 billion, and when the value of Abraxane soared, it was메이저놀이터 sold to the American company Celgene for $2.9 billion. At one point, his assets exceeded $12 billion, surpassing Tesla founder Elon Musk to become the richest person in Los Angeles. Xiong is often compared to Musk, Silicon Valley’s representative geek. This is because their business styles are similar, such as announcing a grand vision first, attracting investment, and then continuously delaying the launch. They are similar in that they disparage and sometimes trample on their competitors. Xiong purchased bioventure Sorrento Therapeutics’ new drug candidate for $90 million in 2015, but contrary to the contract, he did not pursue FDA approval and left it until the patent expired. It was a form of looting, buying up potential competitors and forcing them out of the market. For this reason, some criticize Xiong as a businessman and showman, not a scientist. However, Xiong is pouring a huge amount of money into donations and public interest projects to conquer cancer, emphasizing that his dream of conquering the disease remains unchanged.
◇”I will fight fake news just like I fought cancer my whole life.”
After becoming a billionaire, Xiong became interested in media companies that seemed completely unrelated to his career. In 2018, Xiong acquired California News Group, which owns the LA Times, one of the six major U.S. daily newspapers, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and the Spanish-language newspaper Hoi, and became chairman and CEO . Why did Xiong take over California News Group, which was in crisis due to serious losses? He told the story of his childhood in his inaugural address, which was published as a full-page ad in the LA Times. Siong, who was born in Port Elizabeth, saved money for college by delivering Evening Post newspapers from the age of 14. He said, “As a non-white person in South Africa, I felt the harmful effects of apartheid and eagerly read the front pages of newspapers and in-depth news,” and added, “I was grateful for the role journalism plays in fostering and maintaining democracy and a free society.” He also said, “I still vividly remember the smell of freshly printed newspapers coming off the conveyor belt and the sound of the printing press,” and said, “ I will preserve the truth, honesty, and fairness of the LA Times.” It is said that Xiong, who experienced an unreasonable environment and system since his childhood, chose to defend the press as a means to create a better world. Xiong said fake news is a cancer and social media is a means of spread. Will Xiong, who has been fighting cancer his entire life, be able to win the war against cancer, which is destroying society?