US VicePresident Joe Biden makes an impassioned plea to change the culture surrounding data sharing with a view on using Big Data to find a cure for cancer

Joe Biden, Vice President of Barack Obama to the United States, gave this week (6/12/2016) an impassioned case for Big Data sharing and aggregation on CBS's The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Biden along with Obama announced this year the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, a multi-billion dollar acceleration boost for cancer research, aimed at using Big Data to find a cure in the next ten years.

The ten-year funding programme passed in the United States House of Representatives this week thanks to Biden's relentless efforts. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 94-5, and was renamed in honour of Biden's late son Beau, who tragically passed away last year from brain cancer.

The outgoing Vice President spoke about how a culture shift around data sharing is needed in the war against cancer, and that Big Data must have a central role to play in that fight; "If you're prepared to share that data, then we can find answers."

"I'll bet every one of you knows somebody that has had cancer, hopefully not in your family but maybe in your family, and a treatment was prescribed, and for another person who had the same cancer treatment prescribed and it worked on one and not the other - why? Why has that happened?

"Well, there are answers, and the only way to get them is to aggregate massive amounts of data and use the technology we have to be able to look at patterns and how it changes, what works and what doesn't work and why it works."

IBM's Watson is a prime example of how Big Data is being used in the healthcare industry. The biggest hospital in the United States for war veterans is making use of IBM's technology to treat its patients. Many, including Joe Biden, believe this style of care to be the future of health, and that machine learning like that of Watson is the only way we can truly gain an advanced perspective of the hundreds of types of cancers that exist.

"They go to hospital at Walter Reed, they get their human genome sequence, it gets put into Watson, and in a matter of hours Watson can tell you every single therapy that's ever been used on that type of cancer. To narrow the field exponentially to know what may work better."

"So there's all kinds of things that are beginning to happen, but the biggest thing though is changing the culture of sharing data, sharing information, not hoarding it. We're beginning to break down these silos and barriers and we're making enormous progress."

You can watch Joe Biden's fantastic appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert below.

Posted by Maria Gorini