Speaking at the South by Southwest interactive conference in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Biden shared what he learned about cancer research over the past year in leading the “cancer moonshot,” an initiative to accomplish a decade of progress in cancer research within five years, and called for Democrats, Republicans, and all conference attendants, to work together to help eradicate cancer.
“It is my hope, that this new administration, once it gets organized—and I’m not being facetious—will be able to focus on being as committed and as enthusiastic as we were with the goal of ending cancer in mind,” Biden told the audience.
Biden’s call to progress cancer research and treatment comes nearly two years after the death of his eldest adult son Beau Biden, who died from brain cancer in 2015. Dr. Jill Biden, who introduced her husband at the conference, shared his sentiment that everyone can contribute to finding a cure.
“You don’t have to be a doctor, or a nurse, or a researcher to feel that you can make a difference,” she said. “In fact, we’re not going to beat cancer unless we all do our part… Only together can we seize the moment to defeat cancer.”
Biden’s mission to improve cancer research began at President Barack Obama‘s 2016 State of the Union address, when Obama announced Biden would lead a “Cancer Moonshot” initiative. The following October, Biden delivered his first report for the Cancer Moonshot Task Force, including recommendations on cancer prevention, and wider access to care and cancer research trials.
In January Biden announced the launch of his Biden Foundation Cancer Initiative, which focuses on improving data standards for cancer researchers, and access to and affordability of cancer treatment for patients.
Biden mentioned several of the original task force’s initiated recommendations, such as an accessible cancer research database with cancer sequencing data and patient information from more than 30,000 people. According to Biden, since June the database has been accessed more than 80 million times by cancer researchers all over the world.
“By aggregating and sharing millions of patients’ data, by sharing super computing power of one million, billion calculations per second, we can understand why one therapy treatment works for one person, and not another,” Biden said.
Touching on the death of his son Beau, Biden expressed the frustration that took place while Beau was receiving cancer treatment. Despite the fact that we have phone applications and Facebook algorithms to assist us in our everyday life, Biden said, the U.S. lacks broad initiatives to encourage people to get tested for cancer, and standards for how patients receive information of how to go about getting help once they’re diagnosed. Which is why he came to speak to the audience of engineers and innovators, Biden said.
“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 gigantic impact. We need your ingenuity,” Biden pleaded. “Your generation could be the first generation on Earth to go through life with a completely different understanding of cancer as [a] preventable and controllable disease rather than a death sentence.”