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OCBJ INSIDER

“Places like Orange County that have vibrant communities through business, as well as industries like Disney, want to open up their businesses. One way to do that is to find a vaccine that is effective and safe.”

So said Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire CEO of L.A.-based healthcare umbrella co. Nantworks (and owner of the LA Times, among other business interests), speaking to our Jessie Yount late last week, after a pair of his firm’s offshoots launched a phase 1 clinical trial for COVID-19 at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach.

Soon-Shiong, a part owner of the Lakers who owns several homes in Laguna Beach, said he started paying attention to the virus around the time of Kobe Bryant’s death, and felt two of his companies, NantKwest and ImmunityBio, were in a position to work on a COVID vaccine.

NantKwest has been working to create a cancer vaccine, while ImmunityBio has been working on turning viruses into vaccines. What’s more, both companies were already working with Hoag on a pancreatic cancer trial.

It made sense to partner with Hoag on the vaccine trial because “Hoag quickly established itself as a center of excellence for COVID-19,” he said.

“It’s not only exciting, but inspiring and exhilarating,” Soon-Shiong said. “We’ve gone from having almost no knowledge of COVID to having a potential vaccine, one of the few that could stimulate both t-cells and antibodies for immunity that lasts longer, more than a few weeks or months.”

For more on Hoag’s clinical trials, see next week’s print edition of the Business Journal.

The intersection of Jamboree Road and Michelson Drive had been Irvine’s busiest and most congested, pre-pandemic.

Today, the biggest source of traffic at that area often comes from the frequent dispatch of Amazon delivery trucks, kept off site at a vacant lot near the Boardwalk office development, to a distribution center the ecommerce giant has not far away, along Von Karman Ave.

Next year that local fleet could likely hold some vehicles built by Rivian. The upstart Irvine automaker, with more than $3B of funding to date, this month said it delivered its first working prototype for an electric-powered delivery van to Amazon; in a decade 100,000 of the vans could be on the road.

See this page’s story for more on Rivian’s growing presence in its new hometown, a city that’s often served as a testing ground for Jeff Bezos projects, from new store concepts to robots that deliver packages.

Last week saw the company open its second Amazon Fresh store in the state at Irvine Co.’s Market Place; among other features the 40,000SF spot has the ‘Amazon Dash Cart,’ which uses sensors and computer vision to track what customers are pulling off shelves and allows shoppers to bypass the usual checkout line.

Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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