UA to present honorary degree to Patrick Soon-Shiong

Patrick Soon-Shiong at whiteboardPatrick Soon-Shiong (right), executive chairman of Abraxis Health and chairman of the Chan-Soon-Shiong Foundation, will receive an honorary doctor of science degree from the University of Arizona during the December 2010 UA Commencement.

The College of Pharmacy faculty nominated Dr. Soon-Shiong for the degree last spring in recognition of his multiple accomplishments in pharmaceutical development and medicine and his leadership in healthcare transformation.

The honorary degree will be conferred Dec. 18 by UA President Robert N. Shelton. Others who will receive honorary degrees during the ceremony are Naomi Karp, an education advocate; Phil Gordon, mayor of Phoenix; and Martin Bowen, developer of Biosphere 2. The morning event is open to the public.

The College of Pharmacy will celebrate the conferral of Dr. Soon-Shiong’s degree at two events: a reception with faculty and National Advisory Board members Dec. 17 and a Dec. 18 luncheon co-hosted by the UA’s Asian American Faculty, Staff and Alumni Association.

“We are very, very pleased to be able to recognize in a small way the incredibly varied accomplishments of this extraordinary researcher and innovator,” says Dean J. Lyle Bootman.

About Patrick Soon-Shiong
Son of a Chinese herbalist, Patrick Soon-Shiong grew up and was educated in South Africa during apartheid. A physician and surgeon, he joined the faculty at UCLA at age 30, where he performed the world’s first encapsulated islet cells transplant in a diabetic patient.

Soon-Shiong has founded and headed several companies related to health care, including American Pharmaceutical Partners and Abraxis BioScience. He is perhaps best known as the developer of the cancer drug Abraxane.

Abraxane is the nation’s first FDA-approved protein nanoparticle delivery technology for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer and is now approved in more than 40 countries. It has received orphan drug status for some stages of melanoma and pancreatic cancers. Clinical trials also indicate Abraxane is an effective chemotherapy treatment for forms of lung cancer, ovarian, head and neck and bladder cancers. In October this year, Celgene Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company, acquired Abraxis BioScience Inc. and Abraxane for $2.9 billion.

Soon-Shiong is now working on several projects with the objective of transforming health care in the United States. These include both for-profit and nonprofit enterprises, collectively addressing many of the challenges facing the U.S. healthcare system. Examples are the challenge of translating new discoveries into new therapies at a time when the volume of new scientific data is increasing exponentially; the need for more patient-centered care and better management of chronic disease conditions away from hospitals; the interoperability of health information systems; and payment incentives aligned to keeping people healthy rather than to the conduct of tests and procedures.

Soon-Shiong is ranked in Forbes 2010 list of the richest 50 Americans. He is using his personal wealth to catalyze positive change. In 2007, he and his wife, Michele Chan, donated $35 million to support reconstruction and new research at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. They have subsequently donated another $100 million to St. John’s. In 2009, their foundation provided a $100 million underwriting guarantee to reopen Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital in Los Angeles County.

Soon-Shiong is forming multiple collaborations within Arizona, including with the University of Arizona and Arizona Health Sciences Center, to develop the newly established Healthcare Transformation Institute, an independent public-private partnership to convert healthcare delivery from a sickness model to one that offers high-value health and wellness services. Dean J. Lyle Bootman of the College of Pharmacy is a founding member of the Healthcare Transformation Institute and is secretary of its board of directors.

For more information about Soon-Shiong and the Commencement ceremony, see the UA News story.