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L.A. billionaire teams with insurer on personalized medicine

October 02, 2012|By Chad Terhune
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong and his NantHealth company are working with Blue Shield of California and Saint John's Health Center on a patient care initiative.
Patrick Soon-Shiong and his NantHealth company are working with Blue Shield… (Ken Hively / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles billionaire and healthcare entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong reached an agreement with insurer Blue Shield of California aimed at accelerating medical breakthroughs to doctors and patients to improve care and reduce costs.

Soon-Shiong, a former UCLA surgeon and drug-company executive, announced the deal Tuesday between his NantHealth company and Blue Shield, a nonprofit insurer with 3.3 million customers in California.

They will partner with St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica to create a "continuous learning center" to work on spreading personalized medicine and best practices to more healthcare providers.

"This learning system puts us on the path of driving value-based care and ultimately reducing costs for all Californians," Soon-Shiong said in a statement.

Soon-Shiong, the wealthiest person in Los Angeles and a part owner of the Lakers, has been in the news lately for another potential deal. He has expressed interest in bidding for sports and entertainment giant AEG and taking over its efforts to bring a professional football team to Los Angeles.

Soon-Shiong's net worth is estimated to be $7.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine, and he made much of his fortune from selling two pharmaceutical companies.

Soon-Shiong has long complained about the lag time between advancements in medical research and practical application with patients. He has been working on numerous ventures to speed up information sharing electronically and put more data at the fingertips of doctors in the field.

"We believe the combination of technologies Patrick has pulled together holds the possibility of truly transforming healthcare," said Paul Markovich, Blue Shield's president and incoming chief executive, in an interview. "There is a lot of what I describe as informed trial and error when it comes to treatment now."

For instance, Markovich said, considerable time and money is spent now on ineffective cancer treatments. NantHealth can help identify more accurately the proper diagnosis and most effective treatment options by cross-checking medical databases, algorithms and the patient's own genetic information in some cases, Markovich said.

Blue Shield said it is investing more than $3 million in the learning center at St. John's and it is looking to expand this effort across California. It's unclear what role Blue Shield may take nationally, Markovich said.

Soon-Shiong and Markovich are scheduled to speak about this initiative in Washington on Wednesday, alongside medical experts, business officials and former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist.

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