What to know about billionaire opening vaccine plant in South Africa

On January 18, 2022, it was announced in Cape Town, South Africa, that South African-American billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong opened a new vaccine plant in Cape Town on Wednesday, with the goal of assisting his local NantSA company in producing COVID-19 shots in the future and addressing the continent’s deadly shortage of manufacturing capacity.

Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks in California will transfer technology and materials to experts in South Africa, where they will work on cancer, tuberculosis, and HIV vaccines.

As part of developing his own covid-19 vaccine, he has taken four companies public and runs a medical-research initiative with a thousand employees and a half-dozen state-of-the-art laboratories

As a transplant surgeon, billionaire businessman, bioscientist, and media proprietor,he also seeks to find a cure for cancer. He owns a portion of the Los Angeles Lakers, and in 2018 he bought the Los Angeles Times

Early background

Soon-Shiong was born on 29 July 1952, in Gqeberha, South Africa to immigrant parents who were ethnically Hakka (a community of southern Chinese heritage) who moved to South Africa after the Japanese invasion of China. His father ran two small businesses while his mother took care of him and his other 9 siblings. In his younger days, he spoke Hakka Chinese and English, with a smattering of Afrikaans and Xhosa

“To me, as a kid, everything was a circle—there’s no beginning and no end,” Soon-Shiong said in an interview while tracing his expository nature to his childhood. “And what I mean by that, as a systems engineer, is really looking at integrating—connecting dots.”

His family lived in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, a nonwhite section of the region as South Africa was still in the Apartheid era. “Surrounding me was a battery factory, a car-tire factory, a meat factory, and the ocean,” he said. “I would play with Black kids, what was called ‘Coloured’ kids, and Indian kids. There weren’t a lot of white kids.” Soon-Shiong said in an interview.

Educational Background

He was sent to a school for Chinese students, run by the Anglican Church. Soon-Shiong excelled at the school, where he acquired his cultivated Anglo accent. Upon graduation, in 1969, he applied to medical school at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg.

Read also: US billionaire opens vaccine manufacturing plant in South Africa

The school registered two hundred students that year, following a strict racial-quota system: a hundred and ninety-six white students, two Indian, and two Chinese. To gain acceptance, Soon-Shiong had to be one of the best Chinese test-takers in the country.

The school awarded M.D.s to students who did six years of concentrated study. At 23, he practiced medicine in a black township in South Africa. “I graduated when I was twenty-three,” he said. “I think at that point I had delivered a hundred babies.” His ethnic identity put him outside South Africa’s racial dichotomy, but as a nonwhite citizen, he was required to carry an I.D. card with him at all times.

After medical school, Soon-Shiong was sent to work in what was known as a “non-European” hospital. Seeking better training, he requested permission to intern at a “white” hospital in Johannesburg. His wish was granted, on the condition that he work for half pay. During his rotations, he also worked in a hospital in the Black township of Soweto during the time of 1976 during the Soweto uprising.

In 1977 he and his wife Michele moved to Canada, where Soon-Shiong practiced surgery, and in 1983 he was recruited to U.C.L.A.

Career and Achievements

Today, at the age of 69, Patrick Soon-Shiong is worth $7.1 million according to Forbes real-time net worth, named the world’s richest doctor, and has been called the richest man in Los Angeles

Soon-Shiong sought to commercialize his islet-cell research. In 1991, he co-founded a startup called VivoRx, with his brother Terrence, a London real-estate developer.

Patrick had acquired two pharmaceutical factories in 1998. Those two factories, in Illinois and New York, became part of American Pharmaceutical Partners, another of Patrick’s companies. Soon-Shiong invented the cancer drug Abraxane.

It became a blockbuster thanks to its efficacy against pancreatic cancer and In early 2005, against the expectations of the short-sellers, the Food and Drug Administration approved Abraxane. A development suggests that Soon-Shiong had helped invent a better drug than traditional cancer treatment at that time.

He sold his drug companies Abraxis in 2010 to biotech firm Celgene and American Pharmaceutical Partners in 2008 to German company Fresenius for a combined $9.1 billion.

His love for the game of basketball persuaded him to acquire stakes in the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010 and maintain a close relationship with the late LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

In 2012, he was part of an unsuccessful bid to buy the Dodgers. In 2013, he invested in the startup Zoom, which was valued at fifty million dollars. The company is now worth seventy billion dollars. Soon-Shiong invested in clean-tech ventures and marketed his own I.T. systems for health care

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.

In 2015, Soon-Shiong bought a stake in Tribune Publishing, the media conglomerate that controlled the Los Angeles Times. By 2018, Soon-Shiong had emerged as the sole owner of the paper, acquiring it for $500 million in June that year. more than twice what Jeff Bezos paid for the Washington Post, which had three times the number of subscribers.

With the goal of transforming the Times into a multimedia platform, Soon-Shiong appointed Norman Pearlstine, who previously headed Time Inc.’s editorial operations, as executive editor.

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.


Outcomes for his diabetes treatment in 1993 were disappointing, and one case ended tragically. Soon-Shiong had recruited Steven Craig, his first human patient. After the first procedure, Craig seems to be in remission appearing on CBS News a week after the surgery eating a meal with insulin for the first time in 30 years.

Craig’s remaining kidney soon began to fail and out of the depression he checked into a hotel and committed suicide. Soon-Shiong’s promotional tactics may have damaged his reputation as a physician and were publicly chastised by the head of the American Diabetes Association.

Soon-Shiong has been repeatedly accused of financial misrepresentation, self-dealing, price gouging, and fraud. He has been sued by former investors and business partners; he has been sued by other doctors; he has been sued by his own brother, Terrence Soon-Shiong twice; and has also been sued by American singer, actress, and television personality Cher.


Soon-Shiong is married to Michele B. Chanwho is a Chinese South African as well. She was an actress and played a marine biologist on a Canadian TV show. They have two children Nika Soon-Shiong, and Luke Harold Soon-Shiong

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