Two announcements this week thrust the importance of funding biomedical research into the national spotlight, yet again.
This Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden stepped in front of a podium in the White House Rose Garden and made a long anticipated announcement: his decision regarding a presidential bid. However, after the Vice President revealed his plan (he will not run), he made an unexpected, but welcome, proclamation. The vice president declared that he would spend the rest of his time in the second highest office in the land, engaged in the fight against cancer.
For Biden, admittedly, this is personal. As you know, the vice president lost his son Beau Biden to brain cancer earlier in 2015. Beau’s passing weighed heavily on the vice president’s decision to run, as he and his family grieved Beau’s loss.
“My family and I have worked through the grieving process…this process…doesn’t respect or much care about things like filing deadlines or debates and primaries and caucuses,” said Biden. “My family has suffered a loss and I hoped there would come a time…that sooner rather than later, when you think of your loved one, it brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes. Well, that’s where the Bidens are today – thank God. Beau is our inspiration.”
The vice president added that he would use this inspiration to, “spend the next 15 months in this office pushing as hard as I can” to end cancer.
“There are so many breakthroughs just on the horizon in science and medicine,” Biden continued. “The things that are just about to happen, we can make them real with an absolute national commitment to end cancer as we know it today…I know there are Democrats and Republicans on the Hill who share our passion – our passion to silence this deadly disease.”
National Brain Tumor Society shares this sentiment – a bipartisan effort to combat brain tumors and cancers. And our remarks at the time of Beau’s passing hold true: “National Brain Tumor Society is hopeful that our nation’s policymakers will continue to support efforts to strengthen America’s biomedical research and drug development landscape and foster life-saving treatments and cures for brain tumor and cancer patients.”
We thank Vice President Biden for his commitment to helping make this hope a reality, and are inspired by his determination and leadership in the face of a tragic loss.
Appropriately, the day after the vice president made his proclamation, the Obama Administration updated its Strategy for American Innovation, highlighting nine key areas, including precision medicine.
President Obama announced his “Precision Medicine Initiative” during this year’s State of the Union. The goal of this initiative is to harness genetic data from a million Americans with the hope of gaining insights into the causes of life-threatening diseases – like brain tumors and cancer – and how to better treat them.
The updates announced this week include the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) efforts to apply genomic approaches to accelerate the design and testing of tailored cancer treatments; a National Institutes of Health program to develop a large cohort of volunteers to aid in studying health and disease; and an effort at the Food and Drug Administration to modernize the development and regulation of genomic test and tools.
The Administration reiterated that their most recent budget request – which would have increased funding for the National Institute of Health by $1 billion – also includes $215 million to launch the Precision Medicine Initiative and $300 million for the administration’s BRAIN initiative.
All of these approaches could help advance cancer research and drug development, and ultimately aide all brain tumor patients by making scientific efforts more efficient and effective. They are also complementary to NBTS’ own efforts in precision medicine though our Defeat GBM Research Collaborative and Project Impact: Defeat Pediatric High-Grade Glioma Research Collaborative.
The power of NBTS is that while federal research funding efforts in precision medicine and brain science will help inform our own funded and directed research programs, our public policy initiatives will also actively advocate for increased funding for the NIH and NCI, creating a two-way cycle that creates synergies and, thus, faster progress toward better treatments and a cure.