Biden launches data portal to back Cancer Moonshot

Vice President Joe Biden helped launch a public genomic data portal Monday in support of his “moonshot” to eradicate cancer. 

The National Cancer Institute’s Genomic Data Commons will be used to store, share and analyze genomic and clinical data on tumor sequences — the DNA linked to cancer. GDC will bolster the administration and Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts around the Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to gather data on patients’ genes, environment and lifestyle to help researchers find better treatments for diseases like cancer.

“This is good news in the fight against cancer,” said Biden, who publicly released the platform Monday at the University of Chicago. “With the launch of this new national resource, anyone can freely access raw genomic and clinical data for 12,000 patients — with more records to follow.”

The Genomic Data Commons will be “a critical step” in opening and bringing together this genomic data, and making it available to researchers and physicians across the country, a White House fact sheet says. 


The platform will start with standardized data sets from NCI’s Cancer Genome Atlas and its pediatric equivalent, Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Therapies, which together will represent more than 10,000 patients’ genomic and tumor data.

The White House touts the variety of features of GDC at its launch: interactivity; privacy and security controls; ease of search; raw, unprocessed genomic data; various web-based tools, such as advanced visualization and smart search technologies; and openness to accommodate researchers’ cancer data sets from around the world.

[Read more: NIH chief touts plans to ensure massive precision medicine study reflects U.S. population]

“Increasing the pool of researchers who can access data and decreasing the time it takes for them to review and find new patterns in that data is critical to speeding up development of lifesaving treatments for patients,” Biden said. 

The vice president spoke in May at the annual Health Datapalooza, appealing to the open health data community to lend its expertise to the Cancer Moonshot initiative. 


“Using publicly available Medicare data, innovators like you in this room have launched companies that deliver information about hospital and doctor performance. Emergency medicine doctors are using information on ER visits, wait times and outcomes to help create an app to guide ambulances, and even the public, to the best places for emergency care,” Biden said in May.

“Well folks — why can’t we do the same kind of thing in the battle against cancer?” he questioned. “There’s a load and an enormous amount of data out there, but not readily available. Imagine what you could do to help in the fight against cancer if you had access to the millions of cancer pathologies, genomic sequences, family histories and treatment outcomes.”

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