Joe Biden's passionate plea at SXSW: 'We need your help'

Former Vice President Joe Biden called on the tech community to develop new tools that can have a "profound impact" on the fight to cure cancer. As part of the Moonshot's work, the National Cancer Institute and the University of Chicago a year ago launched the Genonic Data Commons, a platform for collecting and storing more than 30,000 cancer patients' genomic datasets. "Many of you are developing technologies and innovations for purposes large and small, fun and serious, entertaining and lifesaving, that have nothing to do with cancer - but you could make a very big impact", he said. "We approached Amazon, who said, 'You're going to need a lot of space in the cloud to accommodate all of this data, so we'll make it available for you'".

Biden spoke at SXSW about cancer research and the Biden Foundation cancer initiative, which will "continue his work to inject a sense of urgency into our cancer research enterprise and to reimagine how the government, academia, non-profits and the private sector can better organize their resources and systems to collaborate to take on cancer", according to the Biden Foundation website.

Though private philanthropy is important to the funding of cancer research, "the bulk of the money - billions and billions - comes from taxpayers", he said.

"I'm confident that the new admin. will be as enthusiastic of ending cancer as we know it", he added.

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. Dr. Jill Biden, who introduced her husband at the conference, shared his sentiment that everyone can contribute to finding a cure. "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".

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That said, Biden is clearly moving his effort from the government arena and said he is organizing a nonprofit cancer initiative to "finish the work".

But Biden remains optimistic that these roadblocks can be overcome, he said.

"I would have loved to be the president the presided over the end of cancer as we know it", said Biden, whose son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46. "His commitment and leadership is crucial at a time when the smartest minds from the worlds of technology and healthcare are working together to create groundbreaking new solutions in the battle to end cancer". Addressing an audience that included techies and innovators, he pointed out how easily websites and apps had made it to buy movie tickets or cash checks at the swipe of a finger on a smartphone, then wondered why cancer patients like his son couldn't just as easily send test results from one hospital to another. Biden did, however, note that the current administration's failure to embrace the concept of global warming "frustrates" him.

"I had one regret". "We can make enormous, enormous, enormous progress'".

  • Alfonso Moody