AACR 2016: Vice President Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative Calls for Better Tools, Better Sharing
The 2016 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual conference in New Orleans featured a number of important and promising advances in cancer research. One of the most visionary talks at the conference was that of Vice President Joseph Biden,1 the newly appointed ‘cancer czar’ called upon by President Obama to oversee an exciting new program, the National Cancer Moonshot (NCM) initiative.2 In alignment with the AACR tag line, “Finding Cures Together,” Mr. Biden spoke of the need to eliminate knowledge silos and to facilitate data sharing and collaboration. Adaptive Biotechnologies has had that same vision since our very beginning, and we launched the Published Projects3 cloud-based, secure web portal over a year ago to help researchers view, analyze and (more importantly) share immune repertoire data.
Mr. Biden is no stranger to cancer. His son Beau Biden was diagnosed with Stage 4 glioblastoma in 2013 as an adult, and unfortunately succumbed to the disease in June last year. Like so many others affected personally by cancer, Mr. Biden has become somewhat of a lay expert on the subject. In his AACR talk, he spoke eloquently about how interdisciplinary efforts in the nascent areas of immunology, genomics and big data computing can play a critical role in finding a cure. Believing we are on the verge of a major inflection point in our understanding of cancer, Mr. Biden is excited about the possibility of accelerating cancer research by facilitating improved data sharing and collaboration among researchers.
Adaptive’s Published Projects is the world’s largest data repository for T- and B-cell receptor sequences and will no doubt play a significant role in enhancing data sharing among immunology researchers. The open-access, cloud-based web database securely hosts a wide variety of immunoSEQ® data sets; it makes immunosequencing data freely available to anyone and provides immune cell receptor sequences in a searchable format making it easy to collaborate on data and share the resulting analyses. This resource aligns perfectly with the NCM genomic analysis objective to achieve a greater understanding of the genetic changes that occur in immune cells responding to cancer.
Knowing both the challenge that lies ahead in the fight against cancer and the immense opportunity to grow by leaps and bounds our understanding of human immunology, Mr. Biden used the phrase “Cancer Moonshot” in a White House speech about federal funding of cancer research in October 2015. This clever moniker invoked the challenge and awe of the race to land the first person on the moon, which culminated in the successful Apollo 11 moon landing, ultimately captivating generations and birthing a robust space technology industry. President Obama responded to Mr. Biden’s characterization of our present cancer fight in January 2016 by placing the Vice President at the helm of the newly created NCM program.
As leader of the NCM initiative, the Vice President oversees a wide number of federal agencies to focus efforts towards finding a cure for cancer, along with a $1 billion checkbook to accelerate cancer research and development.2 The NCM initiative is currently in the planning phase, and Vice President Biden is seeking help to realign cancer research incentives with the goal to achieve a decade worth of progress in five years and “end cancer as we know it.” In his AACR speech, Mr. Biden emphasized the problem of data silos, where new research findings are often held behind pay walls of the journals in which they are published. He noted that more than $5 billion of cancer research is funded by the federal government each year, and nearly all of the published data sits behind pay walls for at least one year after publishing. A key theme of the NCM initiative will be enhanced data sharing, with NCM guidance language specifically encouraging data sharing and supporting development of new tools to leverage genomics knowledge.
Adaptive’s Published Projects has already grown to include dozens of major projects ranging from basic immunology to cancer immunotherapies, vaccine efficacy, autoimmune disease, infectious disease and other areas. These submissions include the immunosequencing data behind many articles published in Science, Nature, Genomic Medicine, and other journals, plus sequence data for otherwise unpublished efforts. Through this T- and B-cell receptor sequence repository, Adaptive Biotechnologies is fully aligned with the NCM mission and hopes to speed efforts to accelerate research efforts and break down the barriers to find a cure for cancer.
4 [http://www.aacr.org/Research/Research/Pages/aacr-project-genie.aspx#. VyOlc6ODGko]