Doctor who treated former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid's cancer now focusing on coronavirus

The scientist is taking an unorthodox approach to a coronavirus vaccine

The scientist whose unorthodox approach helped former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid beat pancreatic cancer is turning his attention toward fighting coronavirus.

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Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who said his company ImmunityBio is working with the Department of Health and Human Services on a coronavirus vaccine, said the same treatment that worked on Reid's cancer could be used to fight infectious diseases.

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"We have developed a natural killer cell which you and I have in our body, except we've engineered it to target the cancer," Soon-Shiong told "Mornings with Maria" on Thursday. "In terms of infectious diseases, we're developing this for drugs, for treatments even like, coronavirus, where one of the opportunities is to use that in combination with convalescent serum."

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in his office at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on July 2, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

ImmunityBio was selected for the Department of Health and Human Services' Operation Warp Speed vaccine development program, the company announced in late May. FOX Business' inquiry to HHS was not immediately returned.

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Soon-Shiong's publicly traded company NantKwest will partner with ImmunityBio on the vaccine.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
NKNANTKWEST8.58+0.55+6.78%

"Using our unique technologies, we are working just as furiously to develop therapeutics for people who are already infected," Soon-Shiong said in a statement at the time of the announcement. "With this work, we hope to contain and eventually conquer the virus."

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The human adenovirus vaccine that ImmunityBio is working on will be the first of its kind and designed to give patients long-lasting immunity to coronavirus, the company said.

Major pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Merck and Johnson & Johnson are also pursuing a coronavirus vaccine as part of Operation Warp Speed.

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