By Alvin Singh
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden share with a packed audience in Austin, Texas how his son’s death kept him from running for president instead sparked a new frontier for the couple. In 2015, Biden’s son Beau died at the age of 46 from brain cancer which propelled the Vice President to spend majority of his last year in office on a “cancer moonshot” initiative.
Biden spoke about how surprised he was when President Barack Obama “announced to the world that I was going to be “mission control” in his cancer moonshot.” For most of the speech Biden talked about what he learned from hospitals, doctors, drug companies and patients to advance communication and collaborative research to combat cancer.
When he talked about partnerships with new stakeholders he mentioned that no other entity knew “more about radiation than NASA” since radiation therapy plays a crucial role in fighting cancer cells. Since he was speaking at a technology conference Biden highlighted that 10 countries have agreed to share similar data in research and patient information. This data will be run on supercomputers and free cloud storage donated by Amazon to store the work and become more accessible.
Before ending his speech “Average Joe” Biden challenged the SXSW audience to contribute to the fight since “South by Southwest has brought together some of the most creative minds in the world, creators in entertainment, music, science, and technology” who think that the clinical trial data is shared in a highly connected world but he affirmed that it’s not. He implored the attendees to use their skilled talents to help. “Your generation can be the first to go through life with a different understanding of cancer as a preventable and controllable disease” said Biden. According to Biden even if you’re not a medical researcher, you can help break down the barriers that built the disease.He questioned why Facebook engineers could program algorithms that detect suicidal behaviors in users but researcher’s stumble to find better cancer detection screenings. His speech was emotional and often times he was holding back tears as he talked about his son’s fight with having two hospitals unable to share his CAT scans due to different electronic data.
“You’re the future,” he told the audience. “We need your help.”