Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong on the 4th Industrial Revolution & Los Angeles Leadership Role
The 2018 Select LA Investment Summit, organized by the World Trade Center-Los Angeles, brought executives from more than 25 countries together to discuss the potential of the region for innovation and economic development. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder of NantWorks and the new owner of the Los Angeles Times, addressed the summit and noted that Los Angeles is uniquely positioned to combine its current public and private leadership of 21st Century mobility, technology, clean energy, bioscience, climate action, and goods movement to create the next global industrial revolution. TPR is pleased to present an excerpt of Dr. Soon-Shiong's remarks.
Stephen Cheung: Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is a physician, surgeon, scientist, inventor, technologist, and philanthropist who has devoted his career to translating science into medical innovations with local impact. He currently serves as chairman and CEO of NantWorks, a company devoted to the transformation of healthcare and utilizing artificial intelligence to win the war against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2016, Dr. Soon-Shiong announced the formation of Cancer Breakthroughs 2020, a comprehensive collaboration of researchers, insurers, academic institutions, and pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the potential of combination immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer. He also serves in various academic capacities at UCLA, Imperial College of London, UCLA Wireless Health Institute, and California NanoSystems Institute.
Many of you know that Los Angeles has one of the most diverse populations in the world. We have more than 140 nationalities represented right here in the Los Angeles region, and we speak more than 224 different languages. And many affiliations claim Dr. Soon-Shiong to be one of their own.
Dr. Soon-Shiong was born in South Africa, and our South African friends are proud to have one of their own so well received in LA. As a first-generation Asian-American myself, my friends are delighted to see a fellow Asian-American as a key transformative figure for the region. Since he obtained his Master’s degree from the University of British Columbia, our Canadian friends are claiming Dr. Soon-Shiong; and since he’s a member of the Board of Councilors at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, our friends at USC claim him as a Trojan. Not to be outdone, it’s fair to call Dr. Soon-Shiong a Bruin. But most importantly—especially considering his role as the new owner of the L.A. Times—I think we can all agree that Dr. Soon-Shiong is an Angeleno through and through.
Patrick Soon-Shiong: I’m truly excited to be able to present today what we’ve been quietly doing since 2008. I’m honored today to tell you what nanotech has been about for the last decade. From now to 2028 Olympics, we will implement this vision.
I came to this city in 1980—38 years ago—and I think my work is a testament to the fact that as long as you dream, collaborate, and implement the greatest talent—and there’s great talent in this city, in universities, sports, medicine, healthcare, and technology—it is truly limitless what you can do.
In 2008 and 2010, when I sold both of my biotech companies, we decided that we would harness this talent and devote these energies into what I call the fourth industrial revolution. What I mean by that is that there is truly a way to converge biology, medicine, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, physics, and technology. In fact, we are actually already in this fourth industrial revolution; we just don’t know it. And if we in this most amazing city can exploit that, we will lead California and the nation—and frankly, I think we will provide open exploration to the globe.
You probably know us [NantHealth and other Nant companies] as a company focusing on cancer. However, in the context of researching cancer, we discovered that the artificial intelligence infrastructure that we’ve been developing could also address the next catastrophe that is going to hit us: climate change.
We saw a very real opportunity to harness the power of the sun, air, and water to completely change how we derive, store, and use energy. So, on our campuses in Culver City, El Segundo, and Phoenix, we quietly began taking advantage of that power.
Our work on renewable low-cost energy, called a zinc-air battery, now has provided power to four million people around the world for the last five years. Using the ability of a hydrogen fuel cell that harnesses the power of the sun and water to create hydrogen, this reduces the carbon footprint. The ability to create a water production [with zero processes] allows us to grow food in a different way. We have the ability to forever change how motors behave, by removing the gas and creating new electric high-torque motors.
And finally: Where I come from—being Chinese and living under the rule of South African apartheid—I understand that without freedom of speech and speaking truth to power, nothing else actually matters. We needed to establish a forum, not only to empower the underserved and the underdogs, but also for those of us working in the fourth industrial revolution to share amongst ourselves and with the rest of the nation and the world.
This has been our mission; now I’m going to share with you exactly how we’ve gone about that.
The Nant Key Initiatives can be broken into three buckets. As part of our work on catastrophic life-threatening diseases, I’m going to Chicago to announce the first true cancer vaccine. We can quite literally decode the genome in your body, put it into an adenovirus, and inject it subcutaneously—like a flu shot—and drive out cancer. We have built something called a natural killer cell that we can drill down in unlimited supply and grow and engineer it to drive out your cancer without high-risk chemotherapy.
We also have a renewable energy program with multiple programs in motion: the zinc-air battery and the hydrogen fuel cell with high-torque motors, which give us the ability to change transportation.
Finally, one of the most important opportunities is in artificial intelligence and machine learning. I think, from an anthropological perspective, humanity is at an inflection point—with the social network, and the idea of what is news—what is real news, what is fake news—how do we manipulate human beings—and the use of artificial intelligence. There is a true dark side to technology. The idea we are going to take artificial intelligence that we have on machines that do machine learnings and create connectivity and create a social network of safe, true information, and also to engage the millennials with sports and e-sports and engagement vehicles.
These are the three vehicles we are executing.
With regard to the cancer program, this is the natural killer cell we’ve engineered. It’s a breast cancer cell and it has gone after this breast cancer cell and literally will devour the cell through a blood transfusion. We’ve now built an unlimited supply of these natural killer cells that we can take from your tumor and an old tissue and derive through artificial intelligence the sequence, and drive the sequence either into an adenovirus or the natural killer cell, and that will drive the vaccine.
What you and I have in our bodies today I call our first responders. You all have a natural killer cell in your body. I don’t want to alarm you, but each of one of you, as you’re developing stem cells, in order to survive, your body needs to build these stem cells. There’s a mathematical error that happens in every stem cell—billions of them—and the reason people do not have cancer is this first responder in your body called the natural killer cell that is killing it, until the tumor decides how to put that natural killer cell to sleep. We’ve now figured out a way to grow this unlimited supply of this natural killer cell and then take that and engineer that and then add that to this adenovirus of this gene and this now becomes the future of cancer care. Imagine going to Wal-Mart and getting a flu shot—for cancer. That is actually not unrealistic. And with that system of this cartoon? Your DNA signature is your drug. The drug is then placed into a system of vectors to treat cancer.
Let me turn to energy storage and the opportunity to create this zinc-air battery. This is the holy grail. You and I live on zinc; that is how we make insulin. You and I live on zinc-air; that is how air goes through the lungs. Imagine then taking this biological system into an anode and a cathode, and merely using oxygen to store energy. While people have been focusing on the generation energy with lithium-ion—and we all know the dangers and the cost of lithium—if you could break $100 per kilowatt hours for a battery, you’d change the world. I predict that within 12 months, we will break $100 per kilowatt hour. And if that is the case, then what happens is that zinc-air batteries will be the support services and replace generators, lead-acid. And I’ll give you a little secret: The L.A. Times buildings will be running on zinc-air batteries.
What’s happened is we’ve now deployed these grid applications, and remarkably now, 100 rural villages have installed these off-the-grid renewable power solutions in all of Indonesia. Here’s an island completely running with no grid—no other power—on these zinc-air batteries. They’re intelligent batteries; we can tell by the minute which battery and which cell is activated or deactivated. 120,000 cells have been produced to date with 3,000 systems installed globally. What’s exciting to me is that 4 million people are now covered with 3,000 metric tons of CO2 reduction.
What’s next is another very exciting technology. Through machine vision, we’ve developed a technique that we call edge detection, where we can recognize through a computer the edges of mobile systems like solar panels. Imagine taking these solar panels and through the power of the sun to focus their source of power to a single beam and generating heat to the point of the power of the sun and truly creating reverse combustion, meaning taking H20 and breaking it down into hydrogen and oxygen and then from the hydrogen generating hydrogen fuel. I don’t think people recognize that today, the way petroleum is generated or natural gas is taken is making burnt CO2 thrown into the air so that you can get hydrogen from the heat to purify your petroleum. This would be another breakthrough and the opportunity to create more hydrogen fuel cells. Water reduction as some of you know is now possible and changing farming. The opportunity then to change the world, both on diseases and climate and energy.
Finally, the opportunity now is to take this asset—the L.A. Times, the San Diego Tribune, and the California News Group—and integrate it with next-generation technology, like Zoom video conferencing. Imagine that you could download an app similar to the L.A. Times app, and press a button to see an on-call doctor at any time. Imagine that you had the ability to interact with anybody anywhere, or have access to livestreaming of any event. That’s what we’re going to try and release for you. I think this is an opportunity to truly change how we present media, and that studio where I was this morning with some of the moguls of entertainment in the industry to take this 360-degree green stage and create an entertainment through LA.
Don’t get mad at me, but there was not enough space on the two LA soccer teams. Soon, I will be the majority owner of D.C. United. The reason this is exciting is that we can interconnect D.C. and Los Angeles. Between D.C. and Los Angeles, we can truly become the voice of the nation to the world.
With that, I want to thank you for allowing me to review what we’ve been doing. I truly believe we are in the fourth industrial revolution and this is the greatest city in the world and in the United States and I’m proud to be an Angeleno.