A DOCTOR WITH DREAMS
YOU South Africa|2 December 2021
Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong has grand ambitions for the treatment of Covid, cancer and more in South Africa
KIM ABRAHAMS

HE’S A man with many irons in the fire – an investor in some of the most profitable businesses in the world, a media tycoon, a sports maven and a doctor making ground-breaking strides in medical science. But for all his achievements, pharmaceutical billionaire Dr Patrick SoonShiong has always had one cause close to his heart: to advance healthcare in South Africa – the country where he was born and raised.

And now he’s hoping to do just that by producing a potentially game-changing Covid-19 vaccine. His company, ImmunityBio, signed a deal with local vaccine manufacturer BioVac to make a vaccine that can be taken in pill form instead of injection – and which will be able to better fight Covid’s mutating variants.

The pill will be able to beat variants for two reasons: it’ll produce antibodies in the same way other vaccines do, and also stimulate the production of T-cells – white blood cells that fight infection.

“These cells kill the virus as it enters so that it can’t manufacture itself,” Patrick explains when we chat to him at his office in California in the US via Zoom.

And if the virus can’t reproduce itself once it’s entered a human host, it can’t make that person sick and it can’t spread.

The clinical trial of the drug is in its third phase and Patrick is certain they’ll be able to produce 100 million doses a year once operations are up and running. He’s confident the vaccine will be available “soon”, but won’t commit to a timeframe.

And it’s only the beginning, he says – he also wants to create cancer vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

“[In South Africa] there are fantastic scientists with deep knowledge about these diseases. More so than in America.”

HE’S worth an estimated $11 billion (R165 billion) but Patrick hasn’t forgotten his humble roots.

His parents, Wong and Young Moi, fled China after the Japanese invasion of the mainland during World War 2 and settled in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape.

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