Sixty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy delivered his Moonshot speech at Rice University, committing to putting a man on the moon and bring him back. This afternoon at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, President Biden will discuss his bold vision for another American moonshot: ending cancer as we know it. It is a vision that will change people’s lives for the better, improve their health, and decrease the burden of the disease.
Cancer not only afflicts Democrats and Republicans, but all Americans. When we come together as a nation around ideas that unite us – like fighting cancer – we can show the world that anything is possible. The President has long believed that America can be defined with one word: possibilities. And the American people demonstrate every day what is possible.
When President Kennedy delivered his Moonshot speech, the United States had the building blocks to know what was possible. However, there were major scientific and societal advances that needed to happen. As a nation, we needed to fully commit to a future in which traveling to the moon was possible – and we did just that.
Today, we have many of the building blocks needed to make significant progress combatting cancer, but we must come together to equitably deliver on this promise.
President Biden will announce new actions the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to deliver on this mission for the American people, and discuss progress made to date, including:
- Announcing Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the inaugural Director of ARPA-H, a new agency to drive biomedical innovation that supports the health of all Americans; and
- Signing an Executive Order to launch a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative to ensure the United States makes cutting-edge biotechnologies and other innovations;
- The Cancer Cabinet’s progress towards delivering game-changing cancer detection technologies and support talented researchers from across the United States.
INAUGURAL ARPA-H DIRECTOR
In March, President Biden created the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) to improve the U.S. government’s ability to speed health and biomedical research. Today, President Biden is announcing his intention to appoint Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the inaugural director of the new agency.
Dr. Wegrzyn, a leading biomedical scientist with professional experience working for two of the institutions that inspired the creation of ARPA-H – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) – will deliver the strategy for the agency’s nascent research portfolio and inaugural budget.
America has an extraordinary biomedical system that has delivered stunning advances previously seen as inconceivable – from COVID-19 vaccines to drugs that can eliminate certain cancers. Under Dr. Wegrzyn’s leadership, ARPA-H will support programs and projects that undertake challenges ranging from the molecular to the societal, with the potential to transform entire areas of medicine and health in order to prevent, detect, and treat some of the most complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer, providing benefits for all Americans.
NATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY & BIOMANUFACTURING INITIATIVE
Today, President Biden will sign an executive order that establishes the Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative to ensure cutting-edge biotechnologies necessary to end cancer as we know it and other innovations will be developed and manufactured in America. This will save lives, create jobs at home, build stronger supply chains, and lower prices for American families even in times of global turbulence.
Other countries are positioning themselves to become the world’s resource for biotechnology solutions and bio-manufactured products — this new initiative adds to President Biden’s economic plan to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States. The United States has for too long relied heavily on foreign materials for bioproduction, and our past off-shoring of critical industries, including biotechnology, presents a threat to our ability to access key materials like including the active pharmaceutical ingredients for life-saving medications.
This initiative will grow the strength and diversity of domestic biomanufacturing capacity, expand market opportunities for bio-based products through the federal programs, drive research and development across all relevant agencies, streamline and harmonize appropriate regulation, and prioritize investments in applied biosafety research in biosecurity to reduce risk throughout research and development lifecycles. This initiative is rooted in the principles of equity, ethics, safety, and security that will help benefit all Americans and the global community, and maintain United States technological leadership and economic competitiveness.
CANCER CABINET’S PROGRESS TOWARDS ENDING CANCER AS WE KNOW IT
When the President and First Lady reignited the Cancer Moonshot seven months ago, the first-ever Cancer Cabinet was formed to mobilize all levers of the federal government and realize the President’s vision of ending cancer as we know it. In July 2022, the Cancer Cabinet unveiled priority actions to: (1) close the screening gap, (2) understand and address environmental exposure, (3) decrease the impact of preventable cancers, (4) bring cutting edge research through the pipeline to patients and communities, and (5) support patients and caregivers.
The Cancer Cabinet is announcing the following progress made towards reaching these goals:
- Inflation Reduction Act Lowers Costs of Prescription Drugs for Cancer Patients: Because President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act caps out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 per year for Medicare beneficiaries, tens of thousands of cancer patients could see their prescription drug costs go down by thousands annually. For example, in 2019, Zytiga, a drug used to treat prostate cancer, had an expected out-of-pocket cost of $8,181 per year, researchers found. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, seniors and other beneficiaries who use that drug could save over $6,000 each year. Moreover, the number of beneficiaries who benefit from the cap is likely to increase, since 30% of Medicare unsubsidized beneficiaries fail to fill prescriptions for cancer drugs when faced with such high costs, a recent study found.
- National Cancer Institute (NCI) Launches Vanguard Study on Multi-Cancer Detection: As a central component of the Cancer Moonshot, the National Cancer Institute launched a large national trial that, if successful will identify effective blood tests for the detection of one or more cancers, providing the opportunity for additional, less-invasive tools for early detection. A new four-year pilot study will enroll 24,000 people ages 45 to 70 years to lay the groundwork for a large randomized controlled trial that will enroll 225,000 people. The studies will be funded in part by 21st Century Cures Act Cancer Moonshot funds and will begin enrolling in 2024. Grant opportunities studies have recently been opened with more to be released before the end of 2022.
- Cancer Moonshot Scholars Program Now Accepts Applications from the Next Generation of Cancer Innovators: The National Cancer Institute has opened a brand-new early-career grant opportunity to invest in the next generation of innovative cancer researchers with a focus on developing a cancer research workforce that is more representative of the U.S. population. The goal of the Cancer Moonshot Scholars program is to inspire and support the next generation of world-class and diverse researchers focused on scientific breakthroughs that will make a difference for patients and drive progress toward the goal of ending cancer as we know it today. NCI expects to support cohorts of dozens of Cancer Moonshot Scholars in initial rounds, beginning in 2023 with project periods of up to five years.
- White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Issues Guidance to Make Federally-Funded Research Available: Recently, the Biden-Harris Administration updated U.S. policy guidance to make the results of taxpayer-supported research immediately available to the American public at no cost. In a memorandum to federal departments and agencies, Dr. Alondra Nelson, the head of OSTP, delivered guidance for agencies to update their public access policies as soon as possible and no later than December 31, 2025 to make publications and research funded by taxpayers publicly accessible, without an embargo or cost. This updated guidance will affect the more than 200,000 federally-funded studies each year, delivering to all areas of scientific discovery what was already required of Cancer Moonshot grants from the National Cancer Institute as part of then-Vice President Biden’s vision for how to bring the benefits of federally-funded research to all Americans.
- Department of Defense Creates Research Program to Understand Military Toxic Exposure: The Department of Defense’s Murtha Cancer Center Research Program has launched a new program with the goal of understanding the impact of service-related toxic exposure on the development of cancer in members of the military. PROMETHEUS, or the PROject for Military Exposures and Toxin History Evaluation in U.S. service members will bring together agency and private sector innovators to understand and address cancer in exposed service members. It brings together significant DoD capabilities including the DoD Serum Repository which contains blood samples for all service members; the Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER) which tracks toxin exposures; the DOD Tumor Registry which tracks cancer diagnoses in active duty; DoD Framingham which analyzes blood proteins in active duty with cancer; the Joint Pathology Center which is the DoD’s pathology center of excellence; and APOLLO, which was created in response to the Cancer Moonshot in 2016 now with a network of 13 hospitals to carry out military-specific research.
- NCI Establishes Telehealth Centers of Excellence to Improve Cancer Care: Last month, NCI announced $23 million to support the creation of a Telehealth Research Centers of Excellence (TRACE), which will study the role of telehealth in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and equity of access and outcomes. Four funded research centers will conduct large trials in real-world clinical settings, including hospitals, nd primary care offices, to determine whether the use of telehealth —used broadly during the COVID-19 pandemic – can effectively deliver quality cancer care. This ground-breaking program will identify best practices for cancer telehealth to drive implementation of sustainable telehealth practices to offer many benefits to patients.
- National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Expands Partnerships to Deliver New Cancer Technologies: NIST and the Department of Commerce-sponsored Manufacturing USA institute, The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, recently awarded funding to two project teams to ensure that cellular therapies for cancer can be more efficiently and consistently manufactured. Together, the projects will produce innovative and scalable manufacturing processes and create new partnerships for workforce training in cell and gene-therapy manufacturing. NIST and the Medical Device Innovation Consortium signed a cooperative research and development agreement to develop and manufacture DNA reference samples engineered to contain mutations commonly tested for diagnosing and targeting drugs for cancer. These investments hold the promise to speed progress in the development of advancing cancer precision medicine by simplifying the process for validating diagnostics and enabling technology, bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence developers to optimize and demonstrate accuracy of their methods.
- Facilitate Data Sharing Advances the Bioeconomy: As part of the new Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative, the National Institutes of Health is expanding the Cancer Research Data Ecosystem, a national data infrastructure that encourages data sharing to support cancer care for individual patients and enables discovery of new treatments. USDA is working with NIH to ensure that data on persistent poverty can be integrated with cancer surveillance. The National Science Foundation recently announced a competition for a new $20 million biosciences data center to increase our understanding of living systems at small scales, which will produce new biotechnology designs to make products in agriculture, medicine and health, and materials.