The World's Richest Doctor Loses Top NantHealth Exec

Published: May 09, 2017

The World's Richest Doctor Loses Top NantHealth Exec May 8, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

LOS ANGELES – Robert Watson, president and chief growth officer of NantHealth , is stepping away from his position after little more than two years on the job.

Watson is transitioning from his positions with NantHealth to that of consultant as he moves to the east coast of the United States for family reasons, the company announced last week. Watson was tapped for the role of president in January 2015. Before joining NantHealth, Watson served as president and chief executive officer and director of Streamline Health Solutions, Inc., a strategic partner of NantHealth.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire founder of NantHealth and dubbed the world’s richest doctor, said Watson will remain an important member of the leadership team in his transitional role.

“Bob oversaw the integration of several acquisitions and was instrumental in leading our company’s transition from a private to public company,” Soon-Shiong said in a statement.

Watson is stepping aside from his role at NantHealth in the wake of a $184 million loss in 2016 as the companies GPS Cancer platform has failed to take hold. GPS Cancer is Soon-Shiong’s molecular profile analysis, which integrates whole genome sequencing, whole transcriptome (RNA) sequencing and quantitative proteomics through mass spectrometry. The company has only sold a little over 1,000 units, according to its year-end statement. The technology is being developed to provide oncologists with a comprehensive molecular profile of a patient’s cancer and an assessment of protein pathway function to inform personalized treatment strategies. Despite the less-than stellar sales, Soon-Shiong put a positive spin on things at the end of March when he said the GPS Cancer test was “beginning to take hold. In its year-end statement, NantHealth said it expects to continue seeing operating losses “over the near term” as the company continues to push the Cancer GPS testing platform.

Watson said in a statement that he is a firm believer in “the immense value GPS cancer will bring to the thousands of cancer patients who will benefit from the information derived from this breakthrough test.”

Watson is also leaving behind controversies over scathing reports that alleged a charitable donation NantHealth and Soon-Shiong provided the University of Utah was self-dealing in order to benefit one of his companies. According to allegations in previous reports, a $12 million donation provided to the university was written so NantHealth would receive $10 million in order to conduct the research, as well as “reams of patient data” that allowed the company to inflate numbers provided to investors regarding its GPS Cancer product. Soon-Shiong decried the allegations in the reports. In a March statement made to the Los Angeles Times, a paper he holds a significant share of, he said the money was provided to the University of Utah out of “a desire to make this knowledge available to scientists throughout the world.”

Shares of NantHealth are up slightly this morning, trading at $3.17. The company’s share price has not recovered from those March reports that caused the company stock to plunge more than 50 percent, from $7.64 on March 1 to a low of $2.98 on May 1.

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