Billionaire Born in Gqeberha Pledges R3 Billion to Transfer Vaccine Tech to South Africa!
Photo Cred: Los Angeles Times

A South African-born billionaire – who moved to the USA after qualifying as a medical doctor – is set to invest R3 Billion in a locally produced vaccine for the country!


Western Cape, South Africa (13 May 2021) – Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, a South African-American transplant surgeon, billionaire businessman, bioscientist, and media proprietor, has just announced that he will be investing R3 billion to transfer the latest technology for producing vaccines and biological therapies to South Africa!

The New York Times reported that the Doctor said that South Africa could then use them to make a second generation of vaccines to address variants of the coronavirus that might make current vaccines less effective. In addition, he hopes that the technology would be used to meet the immediate coronavirus crisis and address neglected diseases, including schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection common in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Transferring the technology is as important as waiving intellectual property rights. Our goal and our commitment is to come back to South Africa and transfer this kind of technology,” he said.

Referring to South Africa, he said, “Not only do we have the science, but we also have the human capital and the capacity and the desire.”

Earlier this year, the South Africa government announced a partnership with Dr Soon-Shiong’s company ImmunityBio to help produce an experimental coronavirus vaccine which is currently in the trial phase.

Born in Gqeberha

Soon-Shiong was born in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha), to Chinese immigrant parents who fled from China during the Japanese occupation in World War II. His parents were Hakka, originally from Mei County in Guangdong province.

Soon-Shiong graduated 4th out of his class of 189 from the University of Witwatersrand, receiving a bachelor’s degree in medicine (MBBCh) at age 23. He completed his medical internship at Johannesburg’s General Hospital. He then studied at the University of British Columbia, where he earned a master’s degree in 1979, with research awards from the American College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the American Association of Academic Surgery.

He moved to the United States and joined UCLA Medical School in 1983, serving on that faculty until 1991 as a transplant surgeon. Between 1984 and 1987, he served as an associate investigator at the Center for Ulcer Research and Education. Soon-Shiong performed the first whole-pancreas transplant done at UCLA, and he developed and first performed the experimental Type 1 diabetes treatment known as encapsulated-human-islet transplant, and the “first pig-to-man islet-cell transplant in diabetic patients.” After a period in industry, he returned to UCLA in 2009, serving as a professor of microbiology, immunology, molecular genetics and bioengineering until this date. Soon-Shiong served as a visiting professor at Imperial College, London, in 2011.

Some highlights in his career:

  • Soon-Shiong invented the cancer drug Abraxane. It became a blockbuster thanks to its efficacy against pancreatic cancer.
  • He sold his drug companies Abraxis in 2010 and American Pharmaceutical Partners in 2008 for a combined $9.1 billion.
  • He took his cancer drug maker NantKwest public in 2015 and his biotech startup NantHealth public in 2016.
  • He owns NantWorks, a network of health startups, and has stakes in media firm Tribune Publishing and the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • He bought the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Tribune for $500 million in June 2018.
  • In May 2020, Soon-Shiong’s ImmunityBio was selected for the federal government’s “Operation Warp Speed” to help quickly develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

Sources: New York Times | Dr Soon-Shiong 
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