The Urgency of Now: Dr. David Agus Interviews Former Vice President Joe Biden on the Cancer Moonshot

May 3, 2017

Fortune Brainstorm on Health 2017, San Diego, CA

The Keck School of Medicine of USC, The Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC, and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center have been proud partners in the Cancer Moonshot Initiative and its vision to double the rate of progress in the understanding, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of cancer. Tuesday evening, Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Engineering and director of the Ellison Institute, interviewed Vice President Joe Biden on the progress of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

The interview took place in front of healthcare leaders and industry professionals at the second annual Fortune Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego. Vice President Biden discussed his new Biden Cancer Initiative, which he is founding to continue the work of the Cancer Moonshot. During his 45-minute conversation with Dr. Agus, who is also on the board of the Biden Cancer Initiative, Vice President Biden emphasized the need to break down the isolated silos that researchers and scientists often operate in, ultimately increasing collaboration and cooperation. He also addressed the need for enhanced data sharing to move research forward. The Cancer Moonshot was instrumental in securing the agreement of ten other countries to share their cancer data with the US. His new initiative will now help obtain that data and find ways to aggregate it.

Additionally, they discussed the overwhelming cost of cancer drugs in the US. “When you have a drug that’s been out on the market… that was fifteen years ago at $25,000 bucks per year, and now is $180,000 per year, there’s no justification for that,” said Vice President Biden. The Biden Cancer Initiative is looking at alternate ways to drive down costs, from federal funding for drug development to intellectual property deals between drug companies to get them to work together, which will benefit everyone.

They also covered the importance of governmental funding for scientific advancement. Vice President Biden proudly pointed out that the spending bill approved this week actually increased spending for the NIH, instead of cutting it as President Trump originally proposed. “I think our Republican colleagues have decided that there are certain things that are just not negotiable,” said Vice President Biden of the NIH funding. Vice President Biden expressed that he felt this type of support is not only good for research now, but will also be a key to inspiring future generations of scientists.

In this compelling interview with Dr. Agus, Vice President Biden boldly reimagined how the government, academia, nonprofits and the private sector could better organize their resources and systems to collaborate to take on cancer. “You’ve got to be able to do something to give people some hope,” Vice President Biden emphasized. Together with the Biden Cancer Initiative team, he is doing all he can to help make hope a reality for the millions battling cancer.