BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY), seeking to cut dependence on its declining phone unit, will invest in a health-care technology firm run by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.
NantHealth, a division of Soon-Shiong’s information technology development company, NantWorks, will work with BlackBerry on ways to connect medical equipment with data centers and mobile devices used by doctors, according to a statement today. The terms of the investment weren’t disclosed.
A key benefit of BlackBerry’s systems is that they can provide a secure connection for patient data and other information for health-care professionals, Soon-Shiong said. BlackBerry Chief Executive Officer John Chen is trying to overhaul the technology company and return it to profit by targeting commercial customers with sales of higher-margin software that connects computers to machines, including cars and heart monitors.
“This is an example of how to get the intelligence of supercomputing into the hands of people at the point of need,” Soon-Shiong said in a telephone interview. “It can take the complexity of health care and reduce it to the simplicity of a mobile device.”
With BlackBerry’s help, health-care workers can process a diagnosis and have a secure “closed loop” transaction for drugs, insurance and payment, Soon-Shiong said.
The billionaire, who has a personal net worth of about $8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, started NantWorks, an umbrella organization that includes NantHealth, after he sold his cancer-treatment company Abraxis BioScience to Celgene Corp. (CELG) in 2010.
With his Los Angeles-based companies, Soon-Shiong is attempting to apply technology to the treatment of cancer. Using machines for genome analysis that are connected via cloud computing to high-speed networks, a hospital can collect patient information from monitoring devices and give doctors a more intelligent tool for diagnosis and treatment.
For BlackBerry, the deal is a small step toward Chen’s goal of returning the money-losing company to profit within two years. The company is seeking to counter declining demand for its phones by focusing on supplying software and hardware to customers in regulated industries such as finance, government, health care and law who need security, risk management and high productivity, Chen said in an interview with Bloomberg News last week.
Shares in BlackBerry, based in Waterloo, Ontario, fell 1.9 percent to $7.14 at the close in New York yesterday, giving it a decline this year of 4 percent.
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