Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire physician-entrepreneur at the helm of health technology company NantWorks, on Wednesday said he is resigning from the federal Health Information Technology Advisory Committee.
Soon-Shiong said his time has been occupied by developing a cancer vaccine through his biotechnology company Nant, which is under the NantWorks umbrella, and overseeing the Los Angeles Times, which he purchased in 2018.
"It was really very difficult for me to attend the many meetings, and I just felt very, very guilty that I wasn't contributing as much as I could," he said during a HITAC meeting Wednesday. "I thought this slot could be used better by somebody who had more time."
Dr. Donald Rucker, chief of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, thanked Soon-Shiong for "throwing your hat in the ring" to support the committee.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan appointed Soon-Shiong to the 25-member HITAC in 2017. HITAC, established under the 21st Century Cures Act, meets monthly to provide policy recommendations to the ONC.
Soon-Shiong is a controversial figure in the biotechnology world, drawing media scrutiny for possible conflicts of interest tied to his research organization, the Chan Soon-Shiong NantHealth Foundation. Much of the foundation's spending goes to businesses and not-for-profit organizations that Soon-Shiong controls, according to a 2017 investigation by Politico.
Critics have also called into question the effectiveness of NantWorks' therapies, claiming Soon-Shiong falsely inflates his company's successes, which Soon-Shiong fiercely denies.
During the HITAC meeting Wednesday, Soon-Shiong told members he plans to announce research detailing methods to "induce what we call immunogenic cell death in patients with cancer" within the next few months.
"The work we are doing in cancer is really bearing fruit," he said.
In remarks to HITAC, Soon-Shiong said the work the committee does is "critically important to the nation."
"I want to thank you truly for allowing me to participate as much as I could," he said.