At South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, today, former Vice President Joe Biden gave an impassioned plea to attendees to put their innovative thinking towards a truly important mission: the eradication of cancer.
Biden, who called cancer research “the only bipartisan issue left in America,” was introduced by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who also stressed the importance of tech innovators having a seat at the table in cancer research efforts.
It’s a personal mission for Biden, whose son, Beau, died of cancer. Biden held a Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C., last year, which brought thousands of experts together to explore solutions to fight cancer. The Bidens will continue the work of the White House cancer moonshot, and cancer research is one of the major initiatives for their nonprofit, the Biden Foundation, which launched last month.
The foundation is already working with NASA and Amazon on data solutions. “The more data we have, the more opportunities we’ll have to unlock the secrets of cancer,” Biden said. “We approached Amazon, who said, ‘You’re going to need a lot of space in the cloud to accommodate all of this data, so we’ll make it available for you.’”
He noted that the government and taxpayers are ultimately the vehicle for cancer research funding.
Biden couldn’t resist a few subtle digs at the current administration. “Your government, many of whom you don’t like, has a big role in this,” he said. “It’s important to let taxpayers know that we’re not wasting their money.”
He went on to talk about raising awareness of the habits that can help prevent cancer, like not smoking and eating healthy foods. “We also have to focus on clean air and water, despite the fact that some in the new outfit are saying global warming isn’t happening,” he said.
Nonetheless, he pledged to work with the new administration. “I hope they will work to fight cancer as much as I did, and I’m optimistic about the American people.”
He then called again for the tech community to join the fight by helping patients and families impacted by cancer to share data and information.
“You’re the future, and you can make a gigantic impact,” he said. “You’re innovating already to help people buy products. You’re the first generation that could see cancer differently—as preventable.”