Soon-Shiong spawns yet another spinout in a tangled web of cancer R&D

Patrick Soon-Shiong

Billionaire entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong further complicated his sprawling biotech empire with another joint venture, teaming up with frequent collaborator Sorrento Therapeutics ($SRNE) to launch a new company focused on oncology.

The two entities are committing $100 million to the currently nameless new operation, which will launch with a stable of preclinical small-molecule treatments from the Sorrento pipeline. Soon-Shiong's NantBioscience, which raised $100 million of its own just two months ago, will control 60% of the new company with the rest held by Sorrento, and the pair will fund the joint venture accordingly. The plan is to go after some oncology targets widely considered undruggable--including c-Myc, HIF-1 alpha and TRAIL--in an effort Soon-Shiong describes as a "moonshot."

The move follows a flurry of activity from the serial entrepreneur and his ever-expanding NantWorks, fueled by big-money deals and a steady stream of company launches with little in the way of detail.

NantBioScience debuted in 2013 to develop oncology treatments with the same nanoparticle technology that birthed Abraxane, a cancer blockbuster Soon-Shiong sold to Celgene ($CELG) in a $3 billion deal. Soon to follow were NantOmics, a molecular diagnostics outfit; NantiBody, another joint venture with Sorrento focused on developing checkpoint inhibitors; NantCell, an immuno-oncology startup that raised $75 million in June; and NantPharma, created after Soon-Shiong's conglomerate agreed to pay Sorrento up to $1.2 billion for what it calls a next-generation version of Abraxane. And then there are the outer reaches of his fiefdom, including Conkwest, a CAR-T biotech heading for a $172.5 million IPO with Soon-Shiong serving as CEO and majority shareholder.

Each has been buoyed along by ample bluster from Soon-Shiong--the new one is "focused on transforming cancer therapy as we know it today," for instance--but not a lot of clinical data, and keeping tabs on which offshoot is toiling in which field of oncology has becoming increasingly difficult.

Meanwhile, Soon-Shiong's biggest deal yet could come in the form of a long-expected IPO for NantHealth, the underpinning of his various biotech ventures and provider of what its founder calls "the Google of genome mapping." Last month, Soon-Shiong invested $100 million in electronic medical records outfit AllScripts Healthcare in exchange for that company putting $200 million into NantHealth. The trade gives NantHealth a $2 billion valuation, and Soon-Shiong says the next step is an IPO.

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