Patrick Soon-Shiong (left) may not be a household name, but he’s someone worth knowing about. The California-based doctor and entrepreneur is one of the most influential people in the medical tech field. Soon-Shiong runs cloud-based healthcare startup NantHealth, in which BlackBerry has invested a minority stake.
In a profile of Soon-Shiong broadcast Sunday by the long-running U.S. news magazine show 60 Minutes, “the billionaire shaking up the world of cancer” is doing just that, spearheading a first-of-its-kind mobile app that will give cancer doctors a powerful tool for helping patients fight the disease.
The NantOmics Cancer Genome Browser platform on the BlackBerry Passport enables deep, interactive reporting on genomics data for physicians and other treatment providers in clinical settings. This gives oncologists a powerful view into the individual genetic alternations that make each patient’s disease unique. That enables them to highlight relevant treatment options.
VentureBeat said the cancer app “gives the brand a bigger presence in the lucrative health care field,” while Forbes’ Matthew Harper wrote, “This phone app is very cool…The genomics work . . . will also include analyses of gene expression and proteins in order to pick better treatments for cancer.”
“A cancer is not what people think, [with] cells growing,” explains Soon-Shiong. “Cancer is actually the inability of the cells to die.” The human body has a process of renewal within the typical lifespan, with cells regulated by things called telomeres, which limit cell divisions to a set number. Cancer is caused when those telomeres malfunction, and cells divide endlessly, eventually disrupting the normal functions of the body.
According to 60 Minutes, Soon-Shiong’s goal is “figuring out the genetic mutation or glitch that prevents cells from dying a natural death. [His] hope is to provide patients with the precise genetic mutations that fuel their cancer regardless of where tumors are found in the body. He’s teamed with Blackberry to produce a device that will identify for patients and doctors what they need to make more informed decisions.”
Why did NantHealth choose BlackBerry? “BlackBerry already powers many of the diagnostic machines clinicians rely heavily upon so it makes sense to tie those devices directly to a BlackBerry smartphone,” Soon-Shiong told 60 Minutes. Also, “from my perspective, it was very important that security be paramount,” Soon-Shiong told Bloomberg. “There could be no more secure organization than BlackBerry.”
The data is encrypted so as to be secure as it travels through the cloud to the app on the BlackBerry Passport, to support HIPAA-compliant environments. The app, which pairs with BlackBerry’s recently-launched BES12 platform, is expected to be the first of many taking advantage of the Passport’s large, high-resolution screen. It quickly connects users with information on the proteins found, the location of the genetic data, and the type of drugs used to treat the cancer, Soon-Shiong explained in a video with Steve Forbes and BlackBerry’s John Chen.
“Our partnership with BlackBerry has really been able to create a scalable super-computer in the palm of the hands of the doctor,” he told Reuters.
According to 60 Minutes, “Soon-Shiong is certain what he terms the Dark Age of cancer treatment is nearly over, and the Enlightened Age is about to begin.”
The browser app will be pre-loaded on some BlackBerry Passport smartphones and available to those in the professional community in 2015, and will be demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada in January.
About Matt Young
Matt Young is a writer and editor with experience in tech, music, news and entertainment. A current Performance Evangelist for Radware, Matt has previous experience with BlackBerry, and Avaya. He has a degree in Journalism from San Jose State University. Follow Matt on Twitter @techunraveler.