President Biden Reiterates Goals of Cancer Moonshot Program; Names Inaugural Director of New R&D Agency

In a speech this week (September 12, 2022), President Joe Biden reiterated his Administration’s commitment to the Cancer Moonshot program, a federal initiative to accelerate progress against cancer, and has named the inaugural Director of a new federal entity within the National Institutes of Health, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, which is designed to accelerate breakthroughs in certain diseases, including cancer.

The Cancer Moonshot program was launched in 2016 by President Barack Obama with then Vice President Biden overseeing the program. At its launch, Cancer Moonshot set three goals: (1) to accelerate scientific discovery in cancer; (2) foster collaboration; and (3) improve the sharing of data. In December 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, authorizing $1.8 billion in funding for the Cancer Moonshot over seven years with Congressional authorization required annually.

Earlier this year (February 2022), President Biden outlined his Administration’s goal to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years, a target he reiterated this week (September 12, 2022) in his speech. “I’m setting a long-term goal for the Cancer Moonshot to rally America and ingenuity that we can engage, like we did to reach the Moon, that actually cures cancers, not all cancer—cancers—cures for cancers, once and for all.”

He also named Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, currently Vice President of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based biotechnology company and Head of Innovation at Concentric by Ginkgo, as the inaugural Director the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H ), a new entity, within the National Institutes of Health, established in March 2022 with $1 billion in funding, to drive breakthroughs to prevent, detect, and treat diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and other diseases. Prior to Ginkgo Bioworks, Dr. Wegrzyn was program manager in the Biological Technologies Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an R&D agency of the US Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military, and for which the new ARPA-H is modeled. Prior to joining DARPA as a program manager, Dr. Wegrzyn led technical teams in private industry in the areas of biosecurity, gene therapies, emerging infectious disease, neuromodulation, synthetic biology, as well as R&D teams commercializing multiplex immunoassays and peptide-based disease diagnostics.

Source: The White House (Cancer Moonshot) and the White House (ARPA-H appointment)