Vice President Joe Biden believes cancer research will progress more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 50, thanks to treatments that unleash the immune system to detect and attack cancer cells.
Biden spoke Tuesday to researchers, medical students, government leaders, and others during the dedication of the new Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins. The institute was founded with gifts of $50 million each from Michael R. Bloomberg and Sidney Kimmel, and $25 million from more than a dozen additional supporters.
Researchers say immunotherapy is one of the most promising avenues of cancer research today and a central element of the Obama administration's new "moonshot" to end cancer. Currently the most rapidly advancing approach to cancer treatment, immunotherapy works by empowering each patient's highly individual immune system to target, detect, and destroy cancer cells.
The event took place before a standing-room-only crowd in the sunny, second-floor atrium of the Anne and Mike Armstrong Medical Education Building on the Johns Hopkins medical campus in East Baltimore.
"This institute is going to perfect new therapies and bring hope to millions of people," Biden said. "I'm convinced, not only will we save millions of lives, we will re-instill in the American public the notion that anything is possible."
Added Bloomberg, the philanthropist, entrepreneur, and three-term mayor of New York City: "Like the effort to put a human on the moon, ending cancer is a dream we have all held."
Kimmel, founder of Jones Apparel Group, spoke in a pre-recorded video.
"I have always sought to invest in the best people at the best place—connecting promise to progress," he said.
Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University, shared the stage with Bloomberg and Biden and noted that the new institute makes it possible to "accelerate our efforts to end all forms of cancer."
Medical students in their white coats stood on stairs flanking the room and often drew the praise and attention of speakers. After the event, Biden shook the students' hands and posed with them for selfies.
Paul Rothman, dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, began the program by praising the generosity of Bloomberg, Kimmel, and other donors.
"It's a really critical time in cancer immunotherapies," said Rothman, a molecular immunologist.
Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin attended, as did Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said his own recent experience with cancer was "one of more than 20,000 Maryland cancer stories each year."
The Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, with Drew Pardoll as inaugural director, will further strengthen Johns Hopkins' world-class program in cancer immunology. It will unite Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center experts with immunology, genetics, microbiology, and biomedical engineering experts throughout Johns Hopkins. The concentrated effort will involve more than 100 scientists and clinicians.