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A family office, the world’s richest doctor, a UK biotech, and an oral Covid-19 vaccine

Covid-19 might be about to receive its ultimate nemesis – an oral vaccine. If successful in a current FDA trial, the vaccine pill will be a game-changer in the fight against Covid. Success will also make its backers, a UK biotech group and the world’s richest doctor, a huge pile of cash. 

The oral Covid vaccine is the work of Patrick Soon-Shiong’s companies, ImmunityBio and NantKwest, backed by his family office, NantCapital, and the UK-based biotech group, iosBio. 

This week, trials on humans of the oral Covid vaccine started in California and last month in South Africa. The phase one trial will take a few months to render results, but if successful will massively accelerate the battle against Covid and its variants. 

Not only is the oral version a much easier way of administering the vaccine, the so-called hAd5 T-Cell Covid-19 treatment is also a “second generation” vaccine, better able to deal with variants. It also has the potential to stop the spread of the disease. 

“The NHP (Non-Human Primate) study findings reinforce our hypothesis that a T-cell-based vaccine could be protective, not only in preventing mild, moderate, and severe disease, but also in potentially limiting transmission of the virus,” said Patrick Soon-Shiong, in a press statement. 

Qualified doctor Soon-Shiong, worth more than $7 billion, and often referred to as the world’s richest doctor, made his initial fortune by inventing the drug Abraxane, used in the treatment of hard to treat cancers. 

He then went on to set up NantWorks, a technology and healthcare holding group based in Culver City, California. Soon-Shiong, who was born in South Africa, but lives in the US, then went on to set up the biotech group, ImmunityBio. He also owns the Los Angeles Times. 

The oral part of the vaccine comes from ground-breaking technology developed by iosBio. The biotech group developed an oral delivery vaccine platform OraPro and licenced the technology to ImmunityBio earlier this year. If the oral Covid-19 vaccine is approved, the technology will go on to be used in vaccine treatment for other diseases, revolutionizing the sector. 

Interestingly, one of iosBio’s shareholders in the past was a Zurich-based group SIF Investments, which is linked to the Swiss part of Quilvest Wealth Management, a Luxembourg-based multi-family office originally set up as an investment office for the German-Argentinian Bemberg family. But SIF sold its holding in iosBio last July.   

NantCapital, also based in Culver City, channels much of Soon-Shiong’s capital through to his various businesses, underpinning working capital for NantWorks and ImmunityBio, which are in the process of merging. The family office has also invested in other areas including cloud technology businesses.

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