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Billionaire Gives Saint John’s $35 Million

By Jorge Casuso

January 18 -- Even the rain was a blessing, one of many bestowed on Saint John’s Health Center Wednesday, as a crowd of more than 300 packed the hospital’s chapel to celebrate a $35 million donation from a billionaire biopharmaceutical executive and his wife.

Held on the 13th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake that devastated Saint John’s, the event announcing the gift from Patrick Soon-Shiong and Michele Chan was moved from the Healing Garden into the house of prayer to escape the blustery winter morning.

“It is wonderful that it is in a place of blessing,” said Soon-Shiong, who was joined by Chan and their two children. “The blessing is for our children to be a part.

“The giving is a blessing, and the opportunity to give is a blessing,” said Soon-Shiong, the founder and chief executive of Los Angeles-based Abraxis BioScience Inc. “This particular room exemplifies it.”

The grant -- the largest individual donation to Saint John’s and one of the largest given to a California community hospital -- will help pay for a massive, ongoing rebuilding effort to replace the half-century-old facility with a state-of the art hospital.

It will also help build the Chang Soon-Shiong Center for Translational Sciences, a facility where researchers and doctors can test the latest biomedical breakthroughs on patients.

“There is hope today,” said Lou Lazatin, Saint John’s president and CEO. "It is a seismic event of change. Instead of tearing down, the quake is building up.”

A $25 million grant from the couple will help Saint John’s meet the costs for the replacement hospital, which will boost the number of beds from 150 to 230 and increase the number of surgery suites and cath labs.

As evidenced by printed placards and a giant banner hanging from the side of the building, the hospital’s inpatient facility is now named the Chan Soon-Shiong Center for Life Sciences.

Another $10 million grant will help the hospital develop a master plan for its south campus and the future Center for Translational Sciences, which will make the latest biomedical research available to patients at a trend-setting pace.

The center, Soon-Shion said, will provide a setting where the researchers who invent the latest breakthroughs in such areas as adult stem cell therapies and the physicians who can implement the testing are under the same roof.

"This has been a frustration of mine," said Soon-Shiong, whose company developed the cancer treatment Abraxane. "The discovery is made and decades pass before somebody has the courage to spend the money to validate it.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to be an assimilator of knowledge and a translator of next-generation knowledge right to the patient," he said.

Combining the wide array of interests represented by those gathered in the chapel will be the key to helping solve the nation’s “health care crisis,” Soon-Shion said.

“There are scientists in this room… surgeons, physicians. In this room there are investment bankers,” said Soon-Shion, who is a medical doctor. “I found a way to have in this particular room people who don’t normally interface with each other.

“That is the way we have to address this crisis,” he said.

A former film and television actress interested in women’s health, alternative medicine and neurosurgery, Chan said she was thankful for being able to give.

“This is something that my mom and dad had instilled in us – to give back in any way you could,” Chan said. “We are exceptionally blessed to be able to give back in a meaningful way.”

Soon-Shiong, whose wealth is estimated at $8 billion, making him the eighth wealthiest person in LA County, owns a majority stake in Abraxis BioScience, which was formed after two companies he controlled merged last year.

The company’s first major drug, Abraxane, which was approved by the FDA in 2005 for the treatment of advanced breast cancer, is considered a major breakthrough that could be used to fight other forms of cancer.

Soon-Shiong was recently named to the advisory board of the RAND Corporation, an internationally renowned think tank based in Santa Monica.

“I’m very, very blessed,” Soon-Shiong said. “The road has just begun. I’m very, very excited.”

 

 

 

“The road has just begun. I’m very, very excited.” Patrick Soon-Shiong

 

“Today, there is a different kind of temblor rocking Saint John’s.” Lou Lazatin

 

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