Former US vice president Joe Biden urged tech innovators gathered at the SXSW Conference and Festivals on Sunday (12 March) to join the fight against cancer, calling it the "only bipartisan thing left in America". As part of the Moonshot's work, the National Cancer Institute and the University of Chicago past year launched the Genonic Data Commons, a platform for collecting and storing more than 30,000 cancer patients' genomic datasets.
"Your government that many of you don't like is the vehicle for how this gets funded", he said.
But Biden also highlighted some of the ongoing initiatives in the Cancer Moonshot aimed at making cancer research data more available to doctors, including the National Cancer Institute's Genomic Data Commons that previously contained cancer sequencing information for 14,000 patients, but was inaccessible to clinicians and researchers.
"Billions and billions of dollars comes from taxpayers", Biden told the SXSW crowd, Business Insider reported.
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"All of a sudden, there was a new hope, these disciplines coming together, I learned that we had to approach cancer at this moment with the urgency of now", said Biden.
He stressed that his cancer-fighting initiative will focus on improving data standards to help researchers, work with community care organizations to improve access to care and push to ensure patients can afford treatments. A year after President Barack Obama took the South by Southwest stage, Biden and wife Dr. Jill Biden arrived in Austin to appeal to the festival's technology entrepreneurs, developers, and engineers: "You're the future", Biden said. A year earlier, Biden had lost his son to brain cancer at the age of 46.
Biden said we now have powerful new technologies, tools and medical advances to help detect and deter cancer including immunotherapy, liquid biopsies as well as cutting-edge robotics for surgeons to allow for more precise imaging and surgery.
"My aunt died from cancer, other people in the family, extended family, are experiencing issues with cancer, I don't think there's anybody, if you go one degree, maybe two degrees, that doesn't have somebody that's affected by it", said SXSW badge holder Andrew Coy who was at Biden's event Sunday.
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Biden referenced President John F. Kennedy's famous space race speech, where he called efforts to the moon something that "we are unwilling to postpone". "It frustrates me", he said with a laugh. "And the core of the Republicans in the congress - and the Democrats - are good, decent, honorable people being artificially separated by a new kind of political partisanship".
For now, though, the Obama administration's WhiteHouse.gov pages on the effort are missing and a search for "cancer moonshot" returns zero results. "We can solve all these problems", Biden said.
"I had one regret. Our generation can be the first generation on earth that has a completely different understanding of cancer as a controllable and preventable disease rather than a death sentence". "We can make enormous progress".
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