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Biotech Billionaire Launches His Most Auspicious Project Yet

By Motley Fool Staff - Jan 31, 2016 at 9:36AM

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Entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong launches "Moonshot 2020" to reinvent cancer drug development.

Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong stole the show at this year's annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, according to Motley Fool healthcare contributor Todd Campbell who shares his thoughts with analyst Kristine Harjes.

At the conference, Soon-Shiong announced "Moonshot 2020", a far reaching collaboration between academia, insurers, and industry leaders such as Celgene (CELG)Amgen (AMGN 1.50%), and his own NantKwest (NK). Together, Moonshot 2020 participants will attempt to revolutionize cancer drug development by compiling one of the most comprehensive cancer databases in the country and collaborating on innovative and personalized combination drug therapies. Find out who has signed on to help launch Soon-Shiong's Moonshot 2020 and what they plan on doing in this clip of Industry Focus: Healthcare. 

A full transcript follows the video.

 

This podcast was recorded on Jan. 20, 2016.

Kristine Harjes: The most exciting thing that came out of J.P. Morgan, in my book, was a collaboration announced that was called Moonshot 2020.

Todd Campbell: Yeah! This was, I think, probably the biggest news. In a normal year, this would have gotten investors' attention and made them pretty darn excited. Patrick Soon-Shiong is probably, I'd call him in the top five of biotech entrepreneurs. He's a billionaire, he's successfully built and sold two multibillion-dollar companies. And his latest venture, if you will, is Moonshot 2020, which involves a bunch of different companies, academic research organizations, government organizations, doctors, insurers, payers, you name it. He's brought them all together, and their goal is pretty crazy.

They want to take as many drugs as they can, figure out how to combine them together, they want to map out the genomes of 100,000 people, figure out what kind of cancers they have and how best to attack them, and basically spark a major revolution in cancer treatment over the course of the next five-plus years.

Harjes: And the thinking behind this is that, when you look at cancer immunotherapies, a lot of these drugs work best in combination. But it can be pretty tricky to test combinations of your drug with some other random company's developmental-stage drug. So, if you can bring them together, the hope is, through this project, they can test them in combination a lot more effectively, and they can track it. And you have all this information about the specific genetic mutations that each of these patients have, and you're going to have them, ideally, in this big old database that you can plug into and see exactly what works for what set of genetic mutations and information that you have, and hopefully be able to get really individualized and effective care to market faster.

Campbell: Yeah. This is a moonshot. But typically speaking, combination therapy trials have involved some sort of a novel new drug that's maybe still in the clinic, and how does that pair up with something that's already approved and on the market. And you're right, this is really kind of unique and game-changing in the way that they're looking at it and saying, "Okay, let's take everybody's pipelines, and let's dive into them and see, in those pipelines, what drugs may work best with other drugs," with the goal of creating therapies that are less toxic to patience than they are today, because obviously, chemotherapy is a shock-and-awe way of attacking cancer; and also are more effective.

And a big focus of this is going to be on immuno-oncology, focusing on how to reengineer the natural killer cells in our immune system and the T cells in our immune system so that they're better able to find and destroy cancer. And if they're able to do that, then we could see a really big change in the treatment paradigm and how we battle back against cancer.

Harjes: Some of the companies that are involved in this are Amgen, Celgene, GlaxoSmithKline, NantWorks, and also interestingly, both Independence Blue Cross and Bank of America, which is a self-insured company. 

Campbell: Yeah, what's really interesting about that is that, for the first time that I can remember, you actually have payers, insurers -- Bank of America is self-insured -- working together with these companies on developing these next-generation therapies. That's kind of revolutionary.

Harjes: Yeah, it's pretty cool. Independence Blue Cross has about 10 million people that they cover in 34 states and D.C. They said they'll cover the patient costs related to the trails for its members, and they'll cover the genomic sequencing, too.

Campbell: And what's also interesting too, it jumped out at me just as you were going through that list of names of those who are participating in the Moonshot, is Celgene, because anybody who's followed Patrick over the years knows that his last company was Abraxis, which is the maker of ABRAXANE, which he sold to Celgene just a few years ago.

Harjes: Right. I think there's also some NantWorks partnerships between Celgene and NantWorks.

Campbell: Well, he is an entrepreneur, so he's created this Moonshot, and he's tucking in his own companies that are doing some pretty interesting things, including NantKwest. So yeah, absolutely.

Kristine Harjes has no position in any stocks mentioned. Todd Campbell owns shares of Bank of America and Celgene. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Celgene. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Celgene Corporation Stock Quote
Celgene Corporation
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