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Joe Biden Brings Passion to Cancer Fight

On Monday, the day before I left San Francisco to attend the Fortune Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego, I had lunch with a friend who lamented the unreal expectations and general disconnectedness from reality of the tech world in Silicon Valley. Searching for rays of sunshine to buck him up, I pointed to the exciting advances in info-tech-related medicine we would be discussing during our two-day event here.

So far, I have not been disappointed.

The medical world is awash in hopefulness. Precision medicine, new cancer therapies, data science leading to better diagnostic techniques and more effective treatments all are reasons to think a better future is at hand.

Bryan Roberts, a physician-investor with venture-capital firm Venrock, has found success by looking for smart entrepreneurs who demonstrate humility for what they don’t know while taking an “orthogonal approach to what could be a big market need.” I found his take on investing to be incredibly refreshing, especially his acknowledgement that “evaluating companies is more imagination than pattern recognition.”

UCSF neurology professor Adam Gazzaley humbled the audience with a neurologically based explanation of how harmful their multi-tasking is on themselves and their loved ones. His solution? Purposeful “single-tasking.”

Famed genomics researcher Craig Venter explained how mapping entire genomes is leading to breathtaking breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating deadly cancers.

The emotional highlight of the first day of the conference was a dinner interview with former Vice President Joe Biden, who blew away the audience with his humanity and compassion as he explained his efforts to get cancer researchers to talk to each other and share their data. Biden was simultaneously restrained in discussing an administration in the White House he can’t help but despise and shockingly outspoken about how much he’d still like to be President.

When I first came to Silicon Valley I frequently noted how uniformly brilliant and accomplished and dedicated the people I’d meet were. That’s how I feel at this conference of health-related researchers, investors and policymakers. It is inspirational.

Have an inspired—and healthy—day.

Adam Lashinsky