Pfizer, Johns Hopkins Leaders Named to Biden Cancer Panel

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By Jeannie Baumann

April 4 — Pfizer Inc. and Johns Hopkins University leaders are among the 28 members of a new panel that will set the scientific agenda for Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer “moonshot” initiative, the NIH announced April 4.

The formation of the Blue Ribbon Panel, which is a working group of the presidentially appointed National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), will serve as the forum for public input while informing the scientific direction and goals of the “moonshot” initiative to double the rate of progress on cancer treatments and prevention.

“This Blue Ribbon Panel will ensure that, as NIH allocates new resources through the Moonshot, decisions will be grounded in the best science,” Biden said in an April 4 statement.

National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins said the vice president's call to action, including the establishment of this panel, comes at just the right time for all the right reasons. “Thanks to advances in science, we are now in a historically unique position to make profound improvements in the way we treat, detect, and prevent cancer,” Collins said.

The panel is a complementary group to the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, whose members were announced in January . While the task force consists entirely of federal agency representatives, the panel members primarily work outside the federal government, with some input by the NIH.

Recommendations on Horizon

Findings of the panel will be reported to the NCAB, which in turn will make its recommendations to the NIH's National Cancer Institute and contribute to the overall approach of the initiative.

The Blue Ribbon Panel is expected to hold its first meeting in the next few weeks, and will deliver its recommendations later this summer, the NIH said in announcing the panel members. The recommendations won't likely be presented during the NCAB's June meeting as previously expected, an NIH spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA, because of the amount of time it took to assemble the 28-member panel . The task force is expected to produce and deliver a final report by the end of the year.

The panel will be led by current NCAB Chairman Tyler Jacks, who is the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research; along with Elizabeth Jaffee, professor and deputy director for translational research in cancer at Johns Hopkins University; and Dinah Singer, the NCI's acting deputy director and division of cancer biology director. Other members comprise representatives from patient advocacy groups, industry and academia. Industry representatives include Mikael Dolsten, president of Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, and Angel Pizarro, technical business development manager, Amazon Web Services Scientific Computing and Research Computing.

Proposed Themes

The panel will consider how to advance the themes that have been proposed for the initiative:

  • the development of cancer vaccines,
  • highly sensitive approaches to early detection,
  • advances in immunotherapy and combination therapies,
  • single-cell genomic profiling of cancer cells and cells in the tumor microenvironment,
  • enhanced data sharing and
  • new approaches to the treatment of pediatric cancers.

    Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for the moonshot cancer initiative.

    The cancer community, including the American public, will be given a forum to post comments and insights to help inform the panel’s deliberations.

    NEJM Perspective

    In a New England Journal of Medicine perspective that was released in concert with the announcement of the panel, Collins and NCI Director Douglas Lowy went into detail about the scientific rationale for these proposed themes as well as the possible activities that could take place under these themes.

    “Although key actions and deliverables remain a work in progress, one aim of this new initiative is certain: to inspire a new generation of American visionaries to defy the boundaries of current knowledge about cancer. Unleashing the talents of the scientific community by providing a strong, steady stream of resources should enable biomedical research to accelerate progress in the fight against cancer,” the NEJM perspective said. “We expect these efforts to build a firm foundation for the development of better means of prevention, treatment, and cure for all types of cancer.”

    To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington at

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin at

    For More Information

    More information on the Blue Ribbon Panel is available at

    The NEJM perspective is available at