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March 14th, 2010
Genius That Worked for L.A.
Back in the early 1980s, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong thought he might be on to something big: a cure for diabetes.
The young UCLA researcher planned to transplant cells that produce insulin into a diabetic's malfunctioning pancreas. Similar efforts had failed, but he believed encasing the cells in a microthin seaweed gel, of all things, would work.
"You're a flake," Soon-Shiong remembers his department chair telling him.
Soon-Shiong's work only "cured" diabetes for a short time, but that research led to the development of the first breast cancer drug based on nanotechnology. Called Abraxane, the drug is credited with saving thousands of lives.
That, in turn, led the surgeon and scientist into the world of entrepreneurship, where he has showed unusual acumen building companies, including one he sold for billions.
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