Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder and chairman of Abraxis BioScience and executive chairman and CEO of Abraxis Health, has been appointed executive director of the UCLA Wireless Health Institute. He has also accepted a position as a visiting professor of bioengineering and of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics. Soon-Shiong's appointment as executive director is effective immediately.
The Wireless Health Institute (WHI), established in 2008, is a community of UCLA experts and innovators from a variety disciplines — including engineering, medicine, nursing, pharmacology and public health — dedicated to improving the timeliness and reach of health care through the development and application of wireless, network-enabled technologies integrated with current and next-generation medical enterprise computing.
A leading institute in this new field, the WHI has created partnerships with industry to bridge the gap between available wireless information technologies and their translation into successful, widely adopted products and services.
"With Dr. Soon-Shiong's experience as a physician, surgeon, innovator and health care executive and his interest in addressing health care disparities in the nation, he is uniquely qualified to lead the Wireless Health Institute at UCLA," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "The Wireless Health Institute will enable multidisciplinary, integrated exchange among the country's leading scientists and clinicians, and under Dr. Soon-Shiong's leadership, the institute will catalyze innovation as the country undergoes transformational change in health care management and delivery."
Soon-Shiong's association with UCLA has been significant and extensive. Appointed an assistant professor of surgery at the university in 1983, he performed UCLA's first whole-organ pancreas transplant in 1986. After leaving the university, he performed the country's first encapsulated insulin-cell transplant in a diabetic patient, in 1993, and developed the first protein-bound nanoparticle chemotherapeutic for breast cancer, which received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 2005. That same year, he established an FDA-approved facility for heparin production in China that has helped supply the blood-thinning medication to the United States.
In 2007, Soon-Shiong established the Chan Soon-Shiong Center for Life Sciences at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., and the Center for Health Informatics, which brings together computer scientists from UCLA, the University of Southern California, the Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago and St. John's Health Center to address the complex problem of health care integration. His support helped make possible the opening of the new California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) facility at UCLA in 2007 and the establishment, in 2008, of both the Science and Entertainment Exchange at the CNSI, developed by the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Technology Advancement at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Since 2006, Soon-Shiong has devoted his attention to addressing health care delivery in the United States, with a specific focus on issues related to disparities in care, the need for data sharing and health integration, and the pursuit of evidence-based, outcomes-driven medicine.
"I am honored and delighted to accept the opportunity to lead the Wireless Health Institute," Soon-Shiong said. "We are at a unique point in history, where the convergence of medical science, computer science and engineering could truly transform health care in this country. The Wireless Health Institute will harness the collective scientific talent in the nation, from every discipline involved in the complex supply chain of medicine, to address the urgent imperative to reform health care."
The WHI was developed at UCLA by co-directors Dr. Denise Aberle, professor and vice chair of radiological sciences; Dr. Lillian Gelberg, professor of family medicine and a health services researcher; William Kaiser, professor of electrical engineering; and Majid Sarrafzadeh, professor of computer science. The institute continues to lead the development of cutting-edge wireless solutions, including personal communication and monitoring devices, wireless wearable sensors, and a variety of other innovative technologies, for a wide array of health care-related applications. In addition to the primary benefits of wireless health for new health management and health care delivery methods, the institute also has sought to exploit technological advantages to extend health care services to those who otherwise would have limited access.
"The current proliferation of broadband wireless services and advances in handheld devices will enable a transformational change in health management and health care with the introduction of real-time monitoring and guidance for a wide array of patient needs," said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of UCLA Engineering. "Low-cost sensors and wireless systems can now create a constantly vigilant and pervasive monitoring capability at home, at work and in conventional point-of-care environments."
"Our team is very excited to work with Dr. Soon-Shiong," said WHI co-director Sarrafzadeh. "His vision for the future is compelling for all of us in WHI."
"Wireless health services will support large communities," said WHI co-director Kaiser. "Ubiquitous personal wireless devices will enable the participation and development of collective results from large populations. Concepts and new programs under development now are focused on 'healthy cities,' where many decisions and design objectives may appear that guide development of urban environments to promote health and wellness. I look forward to working with Dr. Soon-Shiong as the institute takes on some of these exciting new concepts and programs."
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