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For Greg Simon, Cancer Innovation Requires Reform

On Monday night at the World Medical Innovation Forum in Boston, Greg Simon, the executive director of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Taskforce, spoke about the need for sweeping reform in the fight against cancer.

Greg Simon/Photo Courtesy of the World Medical Innovation Forum

Greg Simon/Photo Courtesy of the World Medical Innovation Forum

Simon lamented that although researchers are making incredible strides in immunotherapy and other innovative treatments, they are still burdened by a system of research that incentivizes tenure, publication, and endless grant applications.

“The technological advances that we’re making under the current system are going to happen much faster if we change the system,” he said.

Simon also addressed other systemic issues, such as the difficulty of incentivizing pharmaceutical companies to develop combination drug therapies when all FDA regulations are built on a single-drug trial model, and the approach of payers toward the cost of pharmaceutical innovation.

“We have no way to amortize the cost of drugs over a patient’s life,” said Simon. “We have no way to help the insurance companies hedge their liabilities to pay for a breakthrough innovation, and to capture the future gains of today. In every other industry that is a norm of a futures market, yet there is none in healthcare.”

For Simon, the Moonshot initiative is as much about reform as it is about breakthrough innovation. “The original moonshot had to build the largest engine in the history of the world to lift off of earth’s gravity, to carry all of that load into space,” said Simon. “We have to build the biggest engine of reform in human history to break out of the bureaucratic gravity that has kept our system in 1950’s thinking when it’s the 21st century.”

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