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Elsevier and the Cancer Moonshot
Posted on August 17th, 2016 by Christine de Vries - Scheidegger in Pharma R&D
“Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done,” said President Obama in his final State of the Union address in January 2016.
“For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”
While Americans have understandably become conditioned to taking anything a politician promises with a heaping grain of salt, the Cancer Moonshot (as it’s been dubbed) seems to be off to a promising start. The president put Joe Biden, who lost his own son Beau to cancer last year, in charge of the effort, and in the few months since President Obama made his remarks, the moonshot has already created a White House Task Force and held a Moonshot Summit to bring together everyone from oncologists to patients to technology experts to work on a plan for expediting the progress in prevention and treatment of cancer.
Elsevier is also eager to be a part of this historic push for scientific advancement. Following the president’s speech, Dr. Brad Fenwick, Senior VP of Global Strategic Alliances at Elsevier, wrote, “Finding the answers to cure and prevent cancer will not be easy, but we should choose to pursue this goal because, just like the space program, it offers the opportunity to bring out the very best in our society. And like the space program, we will develop and discover other things that we cannot anticipate.”
In pursuit of the lofty goal to “win the war on cancer,” Dr. Fenwick realized that Elsevier could draw on its strengths to help the moonshot and conduct a data-driven analysis that identifies which cancer research collaborations have been the most successful and which are struggling. In a recent feature article about the Cancer Moonshot, Christopher Capot describes Elsevier’s forthcoming report as a cancer research road map “intended to equip the leaders of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative and other public and private interests with the data and analytics necessary to make informed decisions about research investments that will accelerate cancer activities while mitigating some of the investment risk and achieve a decade’s worth of advances in five years.”
Skeptics could still be forgiven if they think curing cancer is much more of a longshot than landing on the moon, but the moonshot initiative isn’t an exercise in naivete. The idea is not to lock a bunch of researchers in a lab until they emerge with “The Cure”. As David A. Graham of The Atlantic explains, “The vice president isn’t proposing a massive new government effort to fund or conduct research—like a second Apollo program—but rather, promising to cut through red tape and bring together various players to enable greater cooperation.”
If Biden himself can help deal with the government red tape, companies like Elsevier could be a great help in facilitating cooperation. In fact, Elsevier has been emphasizing for a long time how vital collaboration and interdisciplinary research is when it comes to successful innovation—and of course that includes developing better ways to diagnose and treat cancer.
The Cancer MoonShot 2020 Program website explains that the initiative aims to direct this collaborative effort specifically at accelerating the potential of combination immunotherapy. The plan is to begin randomized Phase II trials in patients at all stages in 20 tumor types, and to do it within the next three years. “These findings will inform Phase III trials and the aspirational moonshot to develop an effective vaccine-based immunotherapy to combat cancer by 2020,” it reads.
It is a bold idea, and, many would argue, one whose time has come. As Elsevier publisher Dr. Lily Khidr, who attended the summit in June, put it, “I believe the science is there – we just have to connect the dots, remove the barriers and make it happen.”
All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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Christine de Vries - Scheidegger
Head of Market Development, Corporate R&D at Elsevier
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