My quest was and is to improve the quality of life through science. That is what drove me then, and that is what is driving me now.
Soon-Shiong joined UCLA Medical School in 1983 and served on that faculty until 1991, as a transplant surgeon. Between 1984 and 1987, he served as an associate investigator at the Center for Ulcer Research and Education. Soon-Shiong performed the first whole-pancreas transplant done at UCLA, and he developed and first performed the experimental Type 1 diabetes-treatment known as encapsulated-human-islet transplant, and the "first pig-to-man islet-cell transplant in diabetic patients." After a period in industry, he returned to UCLA in 2009, serving as a professor of microbiology, immunology, molecular genetics and bioengineering until this date. Soon-Shiong served as a visiting professor at Imperial College, London in 2011.
In 1991, Soon-Shiong left UCLA to start a diabetes and cancer biotechnology firm. This led to the founding in 1997 of APP Pharmaceuticals, of which he held 80% of outstanding stock and sold to Fresenius SE for $4.6 billion in July 2008. Soon-Shiong later founded Abraxis BioScience (maker of the drug Abraxane he co-discovered), a company he sold to Celgene in 2010 in cash-and-stock deal, valued at over $3 billion.
Soon-Shiong founded NantHealth in 2007 to provide fiber-optic, cloud-based data infrastructure to share Health care information. Soon-Shiong went on to found NantWorks in September 2011, which mission was "to converge ultra-low power semiconductor Technology, supercomputing, high performance, secure advanced networks and augmented intelligence to transform how we work, play, and live." In October, 2012, Soon-Shiong announced that NantHealth’s supercomputer-based system and network were able to analyze the genetic data from a tumor sample in 47 seconds and transfer the data in 18 seconds. The goal of developing this infrastructure and digital technologies was to share genomic information among sequencing centers, medical research hubs and hospitals, and to advance cancer research and big science endeavors such as The Cancer Genome Atlas. In January 2013, he founded another biotech company, NantOmics, to develop cancer drugs based on protein kinase inhibitors. NantOmics and its sister company, NantHealth, were subsidiaries of NantWorks. Soon-Shiong stated that NantWorks’ vision for the Future of cancer treatment was a convergence of multiple technologies that included diagnostics, supercomputing, network modeling of sharing data on tumor genes and personalized cocktails of cancer drugs in multi-target attacks, to achieve a sustained disease-free state.
In 2010, with Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, Soon-Shiong founded the Health care Transformation Institute (HTI), which he dubs a "do-tank". HTI's mission is to promote a paradigm shift in health care in the United States by better integrating the three now separate domains of medical science, health delivery, and Health care Finance. In 2014, Soon-Shiong funded online streaming music Service AccuRadio, investing $2.5 million into the first round of funding for America's fastest-growing music webcaster. In July 2015, Soon-Shiong initiated an IPO for NantKwest (formerly ConkWest) that represented the highest value biotech IPO in history, at a market value of $2.6 billion. In April 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that Soon-Shiong received a pay package in 2015 from NantKwest worth almost $148 Million, making him one of the highest paid CEOs. Soon-Shiong is also a member of the Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council.
In early 2016, Soon-Shiong launched the National Immunotherapy Coalition to encourage rival pharmaceutical companies to work together to test combinations of cancer-fighting drugs. He has also met numerous times with former Vice President Joe Biden to discuss more ambitious approaches to fighting cancer, including conducting genomic sequencing of 100,000 patients to create a massive database of potential genetic factors.
In early January 2017, as announced by Sean Spicer, then President-elect Donald Trump met with Soon-Shiong at his Bedminster, NJ estate to discuss national medical priorities.
In February 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported that Soon-Shiong's investment firm Nant Capital reached a deal to purchase the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune from Tronc Inc. for "nearly $500 million in cash” as well as the assumption of $90 million in pension obligations. Soon-Shiong, with this acquisition became one of the first Asian-Americans to become a media proprietor through ownership in a major daily newspaper in the United States