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Biden Taps NCI Director for Top Role at NIH

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli’s nomination comes less a year after she joined NCI as director and amid a reignited White House Cancer Moonshot initiative.

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Biden Taps NCI Director for Top Role at NIH
Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute

President Biden said Monday he will nominate the current director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, to take on the top role at the National Institutes of Health. The NIH role has been held by Lawrence Tabak on an acting basis since December 2021.

Bertagnolli became director at NCI in October 2022 as the first woman to serve in the position. A world-renowned surgical oncologist and cancer researcher, Bertagnolli is known as an expert in clinical trials.

“Dr. Bertagnolli has spent her career pioneering scientific discovery and pushing the boundaries of what is possible to improve cancer prevention and treatment for patients, and ensuring that patients in every community have access to quality care,” Biden said in a public statement. “Bertagnolli is a world-class physician-scientist whose vision and leadership will ensure NIH continues to be an engine of innovation to improve the health of the American people.”

Her nomination comes during a time when cancer innovation is getting big attention at the White House through the reignited Cancer Moonshot program.

Cancer Moonshot is a set of new goals from the administration to reduce the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years. It has become an interagency effort. Biden’s budget proposal requested $1 billion for Cancer Moonshot activities across the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies as well as $7.8 billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

“Reaching these bold but achievable goals will require investing in research and innovation, delivering new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancers, but it’s also going to take making sure that we reach more Americans with the tools we have and those we develop along the way,” said White House Cancer Moonshot Coordinator Danielle Carnival on HealthCast earlier this year about the how the administration is also prioritizing equity principles in the initiative. “Disparities in cancer outcomes come from a set of compounding factors from additional exposure and lack of prevention to less access or ability to access early detection, or not being able to participate in clinical trials or access the best care.”

Last month’s National Cancer Plan outlines a roadmap for addressing cancer prevention and treatment by harnessing the power of cloud and data across government. The long-term plan will coordinate a national response that will result in better outcomes for cancer patients.

Data sharing is one critical element within both the plan and Cancer Moonshot.

“The science is also driving us in a way where greater data and knowledge sharing is going to be key for us to understand these specific types of cancers and how to deliver more precise and more effective targeted treatments for cancer patients all across the country,” Carnival said.

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