AUSTIN, TX. — Joe Biden is calling all innovators, techies, geeks, coders, entrepreneurs, scientists, researchers, and everyone in between to help him with his ambitious initiative to end cancer.
The former vice president spoke on stage for nearly one hour on Sunday afternoon in Austin at SXSW, the annual conference that is hosting the “Interactive” portion of its event — which focuses on technology and innovation — this weekend.
He gave a passionate speech and asked people for help with The Cancer Initiative, an effort that builds off the work Biden led with Cancer Moonshot, which launched last year under the Obama administration and aims to bring together different disciplines with the goal of more effectively preventing and detecting cancer.
“This is a dread worldwide,” Biden said. “I am convinced we can make gigantic progress. But we need your help and involvement.”
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 12, 2017
Biden, whose son Beau Biden passed away in 2015 after a bout with brain cancer, is hoping that experts from different disciplines can work together to come up with innovative solutions, whether it’s the collection and distribution of data, or developing new immunotherapies.
Technology is a key part of making that happen, Biden said.
“I can take my cell phone and find out exactly what movie is playing here or anywhere in the country and what time,” he said. “If I can track a check I wrote and know exactly when it was cashed — I can go on and on — why can’t I do some of the things that need to be done in this fight?”
Biden shared the progress of a task force that spent the past year researching and examining how to best accelerate research and implement the Cancer Moonshot, which will utilize about a third of the $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act that Congress passed last year. He noted how Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was part of the group who helped write and pass the bill.
Biden also gave a few Seattle shoutouts during the speech, including to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — he visited last year as part of the initiative, and the center is now leading a Moonshot project — and one to Amazon, who is helping to provide computing power for an online repository for genomic data with Microsoft and the National Cancer Institute.
“I got an unexpected call from Amazon,” Biden recalled. “They said, ‘look, you’re going to need an awful lot of space in the cloud to accommodate all this data. We will make it available to you for free.’ It’s a big deal. Before this, you might say, what does Amazon have to do with curing cancer? There’s hope.”
Biden said he’s hopeful that the new administration will be committed to ending cancer and building on the momentum that he helped push forward in office.
“I’m optimistic about the American people,” he added. “Given half a chance, they never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever let their country down.”