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Pharmaceutical executive donates $100 million to St. John's Health Center

The gift from Patrick Soon-Shiong and his wife is aimed at turning St. John's into a cutting-edge medical hub.

October 02, 2009|Molly Hennessy-Fiske

A billionaire Los Angeles pharmaceutical executive bent on creating a national medical data-sharing network has donated $100 million to turn St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica into a cutting-edge hub.

The gift from Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder and chief executive of Los Angeles-based Abraxis BioScience Inc., and his wife, Michele Chan, a former actress, is the hospital's largest donation by an individual and one of the largest received by a community hospital in California. It comes on top of an additional $35 million the couple donated to the hospital two years ago.

About $35 million has been spent on the expanded and renovated 380-bed hospital, and $10 million more to attract doctors and scientists. That leaves $55 million to create several research centers and fund future projects, said St. John's Chief Executive Lou Lazatin.

"It will make St. John's the community hospital of the future," Lazatin said.

Soon-Shiong, a former UCLA surgeon who made his fortune developing cancer drugs, had a windfall last year when he sold drug-maker APP Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $3.7 billion. He has since pledged $1 billion from the sale to improve healthcare and address healthcare disparities in places such as Chicago, Detroit and L.A.

"We have the wealthy in Beverly Hills where we can treat them at Cedars-Sinai and UCLA, and 10 miles south you have people who cannot get care, and that's unconscionable," said Soon-Shiong, who was raised under apartheid in South Africa. "These are the things that make it critical for me to get involved. The underserved deserve care."

At St. John's, Soon-Shiong said his gift will help link doctors and patients to hundreds of other hospitals as well as researchers at UCLA and USC, so they can access medical discoveries quickly.

"These technologies should not lie fallow for years without being taken advantage of by patients," Soon-Shiong told an audience at St. John's on Thursday.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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