White House Appoints Cancer ‘Moonshot' Task Force

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By Jeannie Baumann

Jan. 28 — The White House's “moonshot” initiative to double the rate of progress on cancer treatments and prevention will be led by a high-level, federal task force, according to a Jan. 28 presidential memorandum

In establishing the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, President Barack Obama took the next major step in moving forward an initiative he first unveiled during his final State of the Union address on Jan. 13 (10 LSLR 02, 1/22/16). Vice President Joe Biden, , who will serve as chairman of the task force, said in a separate announcement that the first meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 1.

“This will be the first time this kind of group has met as a team, charged with this kind of goal,” Biden said on the online publishing portal Medium.com. And we’re going to continue to meet in the months to come—and lay the groundwork for the next Administration.”

In the memorandum, Obama said cancer research is on the cusp of major breakthroughs. “It is of critical national importance that we accelerate progress towards prevention, treatment, and a cure—to double the rate of progress in the fight against cancer—and put ourselves on a path to achieve in just [five] years research and treatment gains that otherwise might take a decade or more,” the memorandum said.

The members of the task force will include the heads, or their proxies, of at least 13 federal agencies, ranging from the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to representatives from the departments of Commerce and Energy. Although part of the NIH, the National Cancer Institute will have its own separate membership. No private sector representatives will serve on the task force, Bloomberg Government confirmed Jan. 28. 

Report by Dec. 31

According to the memorandum, the task force will deliver a set of findings and recommendations to:

• accelerate understanding of cancer, including its prevention, early detection, treatment and cure;
• improve patient access and care;
• support greater access to new research, data and computational capabilities;
• encourage development of cancer treatments;
• identify and address any unnecessary regulatory barriers and consider ways to expedite administrative reforms;
• ensure optimal investment of federal resources; and
• identify opportunities to develop public-private partnerships and increase coordination of the federal government's efforts with the private sector, as appropriate.


The report is due Dec. 31.

Funding and administrative support for the task force will come from the NIH's budget, and Biden is expected to designate an executive director to coordinate the group's work, the memorandum said.

Link to Cures Legislation

Responding to Obama's announcement, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a Jan. 28 statement, “We are working in the Senate health committee to send to the president's desk bipartisan legislation that would safely bring lifesaving drugs and medical devices to patients more quickly.”

As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Alexander has been working with the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), over the past year on a Senate companion measure to the House-passed 21st Century Cures bill (H.R. 6). Alexander said in mid-January that the HELP Committee would hold a series of three markup sessions on this effort, with the first one scheduled for Feb. 9 (10 LSLR 02, 1/22/16)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington at jbaumann@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin at rkubetin@bna.com

For More Information 
Obama's memorandum is available at http://1.usa.gov/1SdW6AQ.



Biden's announcement is available at http://src.bna.com/chq.


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