President Barack Obama included within his final “State of the Union” address last night a call for a new national effort or “moonshot” aimed to developing cures for cancer.
“For the loved ones we've all lost, for the family we can still save, let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all,” Obama urged Congress, drawing applause.
Obama named Vice President Joe Biden as head of the moonshot, extending the space metaphor by adding: “I'm putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.”
Before the speech yesterday, Biden laid out two priorities for the moonshot in a post on his Medium.com page: One was increasing public and private resources to fight cancer, the other a greater collaboration and sharing of information between researchers.
“The goal of this initiative is simple—to double the rate of progress; to make a decade worth of advances in five years,” Biden declared.
The vehicle for achieving that progress would be the new National Immunotherapy Coalition (NIC) announced Monday. Biden said he will lead the coalition, which will include pharma and biotech giants, major academic cancer centers, and community oncologists as well as Independence Blue Cross and Bank of America. The partners have agreed to work toward speeding up cancer immunotherapy development.
NIC leaders presented the coalition’s goals last month to Biden, who said he will follow up on Friday. “I’ll head to the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine to talk to their physicians and researchers and continue this national dialogue.”
Next week, Biden added, he will meet with “international experts” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the current state of cancer research and treatment, as well as “opportunities to accelerate this fight.”
Later this month, the vice president continued, he will convene and chair the first of several meetings with cabinet secretaries and heads of all “relevant” agencies to discuss how Washington can better support cancer research and treatment.
One significant step toward additional federal support came last month, when Congress approved a budget for the 2016 federal fiscal year that included the largest spending increase for NIH in 12 years—a $2 billion boost that will expand the agency’s budget to $32 billion.
“I know that we can help solidify a genuine global commitment to end cancer as we know it today, and inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue new discoveries and the bounds of human endeavor,” added Biden, who lost his son Beau, 46, to brain cancer last year.