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Biden Talks Cancer 'Moonshot' And Research Cooperation At Fred Hutch In Seattle

Courtesy of Robert Hood
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Vice President Joe Biden chats with Alexander Salter while visiting Dr Stan Riddell's lab during a tour at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Vice President Joe Biden used his visit to Seattle Monday to call for breaking down barriers that keep scientists from cooperating to fight cancer.


Biden visited the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as part of a listening tour for the "cancer moonshot,” a major coordinated federal effort to beat back the disease. The moonshot comes with a projected billion dollars in new funding, which Fred Hutch, by one measure already the second biggest recipientof grants from the National Institutes of Health in the country, stands to compete for a share of.


But beyond the money, Biden emphasized emerging collaborations in the field, as exemplified by work taking place at Fred Hutch harnessing immune cells to attack tumors.


“We are at an inflection point,” Biden said, flanked by Seattle-area researchers and policymakers. “We weren’t there 10 years ago. We weren’t there even seven years ago. But what has changed and continues to change is the cooperation.”


Biden emphasized the sharing of patient data as an especially important step, and one where the federal effort might make an impact. Too many companies and institutions guard their data for proprietary reasons, he said.


Biden then asked the assembled researchers and clinicians from Seattle Children’s, Swedish Hospital, Juno Therapeutics, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the Institute for Systems Biology, the University of Washington and Fred Hutch, what should he be doing?


Stan Riddell, a prominent immunotherapy researcher at Fred Hutch, echoed Biden’s point when he told the vice president to help scientists break down silos.


“We’re individualists, us researchers,” he said. “My argument would be to build teams.”


Biden said his staffers would call each of the panelists in coming days to ask for their very top priorities. Senator Maria Cantwell, who joined Biden along with Senator Patty Murray, said she would help push for more data sharing among researchers and clinicians.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.