Bloomberg~Kimmel Cancer Immunotherapy Institute Announcement

Remarks for Ronald J. Daniels
Bloomberg~Kimmel Cancer Immunotherapy Institute Announcement
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you, Paul and Bill.

This is a momentous day for Johns Hopkins, and for all of us who are dedicated to this cause of defeating cancer.

Mr. Vice President, know how grateful we are for the remarkable spirit with which you’ve responded to your own loss, and galvanized the nation around our shared commitment to end these diseases.

Governor Hogan, thank you for the candor and courage you have shown in sharing your experiences with those you serve.

Forty-five years ago, President Nixon declared war on cancer. In the ensuing decades, the metaphor took hold, and morphed into descriptions of targeted skirmishes and epic battles. It shaped policy and weighed heavily on patients, families and physicians asked to fight the disease, very often with blunt weapons.

But in the metaphor of war, the lines of battle are drawn between enemy combatants. It is bloody. It is brutal. It is focused on conquering the other.

And it fails to capture the devastating, essential truth about this disease: Cancer is of us.

We now know that this “war on cancer” metaphor, like our current treatments, has only taken us so far.

Today, we celebrate our ability not to marshal outside agents to beat back a foe, but instead to harness the unmatched brilliance of the body’s own internal defense – the immune system – to seek out and eradicate the disease.

And with that new approach, a different metaphor is taking hold: the moonshot.

The moonshot speaks to a wholly different paradigm. It recognizes that marshalling brute force does not alone guarantee success. It recognizes that we have aggressively exploited existing therapies. But to cover the enormous margin still before us requires altogether different thinking.

Instead of a call to arms, it is a call to ideas.

A call to build on science, on acts of individual imagination, of inspiration, of intellectual risk-taking to deepen our knowledge and change clinical outcomes.

Here is where the American academic medical community – and Johns Hopkins in particular – excel.

At Johns Hopkins, America’s first research university, individual academic capability is sedulously cultivated and nourished. The freedom to dream, to think and to act anew is deeply embedded. Innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration are part of our DNA.

Thanks to that unique amalgam, we have arrived at this moment in the history of cancer.

It was here that Hopkins researchers Drew Pardoll and Suzanne Topalian staked their lives and their science on the unorthodox idea of immunotherapy. It was here that they, and their colleagues, found an academic home, when funding for such unorthodox ideas was hard to find and skepticism reigned in the scientific establishment.

It was here our clinician-scientists proved the power of Anti-PD1 protocols to impact not only melanoma and lung cancer, but many other cancers.

And it is here that the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center was created and the immunology program begun, uniting oncologists, immunologists and pathologists in common cause. And bringing to bear the insights of physicists and computer scientists, and the power of big data science, to tailor treatments to individuals.

So today, it is with soaring anticipation that we answer a new call, our moonshot moment, with the launch of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

Of course, Mike Bloomberg and Sidney Kimmel are not known for being swayed by grand metaphor. They don’t invest in hyperbole. They look for – and rightly demand – ideas that are backed by solid research and reams of data, matched and galvanized by inspired talent. In short, they don’t bet on a moonshot moment unless they can already envision a clear vector to the moon.

In this case, we are the beneficiary – and have been for many years – of their courage, their vision and their impeccable eye for the next big idea and the talent required to realize it.

Mike and Sidney, your commitment will mean the margin of excellence as we build on a strong foundation of public support to turn this aspirational metaphor into a reality. For this we are truly grateful.

To our patients, families, scientists and clinicians, thank you for your commitment, your fearlessness and your work leading us forward.

And Vice President Biden, thank you for your leadership and your inspiration.

Together, we will harness the innate brilliance of the human body, the determination of patients and families, and the imagination of our scientists and clinicians to chart a course to cancer’s ultimate end. Mark my words.

Thank you.