Vice President Joe Biden urged scientists to collaborate to help speed up the process to cure cancer. Biden was in Seattle Monday. He toured a lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, then held a roundtable discussion with scientists.
His visit is part of the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force. Biden told the group he’s seeing real movement, a turning point in cancer research.
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“Four to five years ago geneticists weren’t working with immunologists, virologists, etcetera,” Biden said. “As a matter of fact, most of the immunologists who are the lead now were sort of out there in the wilderness. But all has changed.”
Biden wanted to know what the federal government can do in the coming years to speed up progress. One of the issues that came up was access to data.
“Everybody talks about big data as an indispensable tool,” Biden said, “but the aggregation of that data is turning out to be difficult.”
It’s difficult on many levels. For example, researchers at Fred Hutch have access to about 400,000 cancer patients through a registry in Western Washington. That data usually includes information like medical history, treatment, and maybe their genomic sequence. But sometimes the data is incomplete and research institutes don’t always share data. The problem, Biden said, is that data is trapped in silos.
Biden has been personally affected by cancer. His son Beau, died last year at age 46.