April 14, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Brentwood Beat: History is being made right in our backyard

Everyone in one way or another wants to make the world a better place. That seems pretty universal. Many try and fall short; some contribute to a little progress here and there; once in a while someone does something amazing that benefits of all of society for years to come.

Just off the top of my head, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Jonas Salk come to mind. There are more in this echelon, to be sure, but it’s not every day one of these individuals is your neighbor, alive and well at the very moment you are.

One of our fellow Brentwoodians, Patrick Soon-Shiong, could very well go down in history as one of the all-time greats when it comes to innovation. Dr. Soon-Shiong – a professor of medicine at UCLA – has more than 50 patents, many related to new methods of attacking various forms of diabetes and cancer.

Dr. Soon-Shiong and the Los Angeles Business Journal co-sponsor an annual event, the Patrick Soon-Shiong Innovation Awards.

At this year’s event, held last month, Soon-Shiong revealed plans for a company he founded in recent years called NantWorks. Soon-Shiong is pulling together perhaps the most ambitious effort ever to marry digital technology to the improvement of healthcare.

He might just cure cancer in our lifetimes.

Soon, he says, digital signals could be everywhere, linking us 24/7 to a “central brain” that can monitor everyone’s health at all times. This could be so sophisticated that the moment a cancer cell is first noted in an individual, that person’s doctor will immediately be alerted.

Early detection of cancer is of course important, but there are many variations of cancer and we all have different genes. A treatment that works for you might not work for me.

Much of what has been assumed about cancer treatment in the last 40 years, according to Soon-Shiong, is wrong. Massive doses of radiation and chemotherapy are designed to kill one type of cancer, but these harsh treatments often weaken the entire patient. And cancers can mutate within an individual – often triggered by the very radiation and chemo treatments intended to cure the cancer.

Rather than “nuke” one type of cancer, Soon-Shiong says patients should receive a “cocktail” mix of far less potent drugs that will attack many types of cancer cells, all at once. This cocktail will be designed based on your genes, your DNA – and your particular cancer cells. These treatments, according to Soon-Shiong, will be far more effective and are much easier for the patient to tolerate.

There will soon be ways, according to Soon-Shiong, to conduct blood transfusions that remove cancer cells from a patient’s blood, returning only cancer-free blood to the patient. This could mean no radiation, no chemotherapy.

I’m not sure I’m capable of explaining all this exactly right – but I can say the whole audience was in rapt silence as Dr. Soon-Shiong and his colleagues showed how all this will work, often in 3-D.

While much of what was described that night was very serious, Soon-Shiong showed that healthcare can be fun. One innovation shown at the awards dinner is a collaboration between NantWorks, Disney, and Hasbro.

A young child brushing his or her teeth can watch a tablet that displays a solid screen. As the child brushes, more and more of an animated image begins to appear. The child must brush for two full minutes in order to see the entire picture.

Early indications show that participating kids actually like brushing their teeth for the recommended amount of time.

Several companies were honored at the Innovation Awards dinner. Ice Energy has developed an air-conditioning system that uses ice manufactured at night when there is excess electricity in the energy grid. The ice – a wonderful storage device – is then used to cool buildings during the day. At night, the melted water is refrozen.

Sunseeker Enterprises has invented a fire-resistant material that can keep houses from going up in flames. Beyond Meat manufactures meat-like products made out of soy and peas that reportedly actually taste good.

HH2 Energy can install – today – a hydrogen-based system that can boost your car’s speed while reducing fuel use – and the only byproduct is water vapor.

Go to the Los Angeles Business Journal’s website, labusinessjournal.com, to learn more. If you like what you see – and I can’t imagine you won’t – we have our Brentwood neighbor, Patrick Soon-Shiong, to thank.

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