Saint John’s Health Center has received a major $35 million gift that will provide it with a “dynamic venue” to pursue the “bold vision” of the hospital and the donors, according to St. John’s president and CEO Lou Lazatin.
The gift, announced Wednesday, January 17, was made by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, his wife Michele B. Chan and their family. $25 million will be used to complete the building of St. John’s world-class, state-of-the-art inpatient life science center which will be named the Chan Soon-Shiong Center for Life Sciences, and $10 million will go to develop a master plan for the Health Center’s South Campus and a new Center for Translational Sciences which will be developed subject to requisite approvals.
Dr. Soon-Shiong stated: “With Saint John’s mission of compassionate care for their patients and their commitment to translational medicine – rapidly moving discovery from the bench to clinical practice – it is a privilege for Michele and me to make this gift. It is Michele’s hope and mine that through our gift, Saint John’s will be able to expand and continue its efforts in these important areas and ultimately create a model which will, in Santa Monica, combine the medical prowess of world-class physicians and surgeons with the technological strengths of bio-informatics.”
As indicated by Dr. Soon-Shiong’s statement, translational medicine is a branch of medical research that attempts to more directly connect basic research to patient care. It is growing in importance in the healthcare industry, and it typically refers to the “translation” of research work into real therapies for real patients – linkage between the laboratory and the patient’s bedside.
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Abraxis BioScience, a global biopharmaceutical company devoted to the discovery, development and delivery of next-generation therapies for the treatment of life-threatening diseases. St. John’s Lazatin said that his “work in cancer research is world renown. The nano-technology behind Abraxane, the drug he developed for treatment of breast cancer, could revolutionize the way cancer is treated.” (Nano-technology being technology involving very small things, like single molecules; nano means one billionth, so a nanogram is one billionth of a gram.)
“We are extremely pleased to not only receive such a generous gift,” said Lazatin, “but [also to receive] the recognition from such a prominent and accomplished medical researcher, surgeon and his family of the quality of our patient care and our commitment and leadership in translational medicine.”
Ms. Lazatin added that Saint John’s Foundation is privileged that Dr. Soon-Shiong has agreed to add his expertise to the Health Center by serving as a Trustee.
The Saint John’s Campus
In the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, Saint John’s is rebuilding its entire health center campus in Santa Monica, which includes inpatient and medical buildings, surgical centers and research facilities; this includes the inpatient life science center (the hospital care facility). The campus also includes the John Wayne Cancer Institute which receives international acclaim for its translational research, bringing hope to cancer patients from around the globe.
The “South Campus” – the property south of Santa Monica Boulevard – will include the Chan Soon-Shiong Center for Translational Sciences, to be developed subject to requisite approvals out of $10 million of the grant announced January 17.
Dr. Soon-Shiong stated, “There is an urgent need to address the serious health care issues facing our country and implement evidence-based treatments for life-threatening diseases such as cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and heart disease. The campus at Saint John’s presents a unique opportunity to establish a platform to integrate cutting-edge, scientific breakthroughs with world-class patient care. With the explosion of scientific knowledge at the molecular level, it is now possible to identify biomarkers, which are predictive of outcomes both in terms of prevention and treatment of life-threatening diseases.
“The opportunity of executing an evolutionary change in the practice of medicine by converting the clinical decision-making process from a reactive, empiric and qualitative approach to one of a quantitative, predictive, personalized nature, is currently at hand.”
He continued, “To expedite this transformational change in medicine, there is an urgent need to converge at a single campus multidisciplinary basic scientists, including computer scientists, engineers, physicists and molecular biologists with world-class physicians and surgeons. The opportunity to execute such a personalized medicine approach by converging the best of bio-informatics, with nano-technology, molecular biology, biotechnology and medicine may transform how new technologies are discovered and indeed may transform the delivery of health care in our country.” (Bio-informatics being the use of computer science, mathematics and information theory to model and analyze biological systems.)
Says Saint John’s CEO Lazatin, “The research initiative spearheaded by Dr. Soon-Shiong, Michele B. Chan and their family will enable us to bring world-class faculty, basic scientists, surgeons and clinicians who are proud and honored to be associated with Saint John’s.
“An important aspect of this bold vision will be development of a dynamic venue for translational research, including the groundbreaking work of the John Wayne Cancer Research Institute. Once realized, this venue will be the nerve center of collaborations with great academic institutions throughout Los Angeles and the world.”
Ms. Chan stated, “As the wife of a physician for some 28 years now, I know firsthand that the attitude of patients can profoundly affect the outcome of medical treatments. In the future, the synergy between the Center for Translational Sciences and the warm, caring and dignified setting of the inpatient Center for Life Sciences, with its gardens and welcoming atmosphere, will be an important part of the patient healing process.”
She added, “Patrick and I feel blessed that we can make this gift to help improve care and find new ways to cure disease. Saint John’s is a wonderful facility, staffed by outstanding doctors, nurses and others. We are thrilled to become part of their family.”
Ms. Lazatin’s comments tied it all together: “Thanks to Michele and Patrick’s extraordinary generosity, Saint John’s will be able to unite its healing ministry of providing compassionate care to the whole person with today’s medical imperative of rapidly translating innovation from the scientist’s laboratory to the patient’s bedside.”