Huge steps on Boulevard of Big Dreams:

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Frank McGuire – Herald Sun
21 July 2016

AMID calls for national unity after hate-motivated murders in America, the insane terrorist strike against French liberty, equality, fraternity and a failed coup in Turkey, the Vice-President of the United States, Joe Biden, came to Melbourne on a mission.

The quest to cure cancer.

Declaring his admiration for the jewel in Australia’s medical research crown, the $1 billion Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, the world’s second-most powerful man highlighted the international significance of the collaboration of 10 leading cancer organisations crucially locating patient care, clinical trials, research and education in one super site in Melbourne.

This architecturally stunning landmark combines the clout of Australia’s premier biomedical precinct in Parkville centred on the University of Melbourne and a cluster of medical research institutions incorporating the expertise of Nobel prize winners near Royal Parade, our “Boulevard of Big Dreams”.

“You are making cancer research a team sport,” Biden observed during his tour of the VCCC. “You have poured your heart — and a lot of your money — but your heart into building this facility. It’s a testament to your tenacity as well as your dedication in the fight against cancer. On behalf of the United States of America, on behalf of every cancer patient in the United States of America, thank you for this, I mean this sincerely.”

President Barack Obama appointed Biden chair of the US’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, announced five months ago, aiming to cure cancer.

His son, Beau, died last year aged 46 after a battle with brain cancer.

The Vice-President’s praise underscores the exceptionalism of Australian science.

Medical researchers are overwhelmingly culturalists not monetarists, finding meaning in elegant discoveries to improve and save lives.

Australia’s first comprehensive cancer centre also highlights leadership in collaboration, defying the conflicting forces that too often stymie co-operation — the silo mentality, turf wars, institutional ego, bureaucratic inertia and the political cycle.

Enlightened federalism, bipartisanship and constancy of purpose trumped the politics of two dogs barking.

Health minister in the Brumby government, Dan Andrews was critical in securing funds seven years ago and opened the VCCC last Sunday as Victoria’s Premier.

He described its significance from the point of view of patients and their families, having observed the building’s rise from the window by his father’s bedside at the Royal Melbourne Hospital during his “brave and painful” fight against cancer.

The Premier delivered his father Bob’s eulogy at the family’s farm near Wangaratta on a cold, wet day at the end of April then flew to America to start the process of developing links with major American institutions.

The historic Memorandum of Understanding between the US’s National Cancer Institute and Victoria to strengthen international ties, encourage greater co-operation and knowledge sharing in cancer research and patient care was put in place during Joe Biden’s visit to Melbourne.

“One hundred Victorians are diagnosed every day with cancer, close to 1000 die every month,” the Premier told the official VCCC opening, “It’s everybody’s business.”

Supercomputers should help secure future breakthroughs, according to Biden, defining the significance of the agreement between Victoria and the US.

“We’re going to be able to share patient histories … the data of various proteins and genetic characteristics of almost 60,000 patients in Australia and the United States, with full privacy protections.”

The Premier has also announced the exchange of the brightest researchers through a new fellowship program between Victoria and the US National Cancer Institute and Health Minister, Jill Hennessy will announce further initiatives in international health.

Combining Melbourne’s leadership and excellence as the epicentre for Australian partnerships with America on medical research increases the chances of curing cancer and harks back to a successful scientific alliance not forged in war but in the Sea of Tranquillity during a great leap for mankind, as I wrote in this newspaper within days of Obama’s call for the new Moonshot.

Amid the Cold War fear of 1962, US President John F. Kennedy declared the moon landing and other choices were made “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills”.

So will the quest to cure cancer.

Frank McGuire is the Victorian Government’s first Parliamentary Secretary for Medical Research and Labor MP for Broadmeadows

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