Three years ago, Vice President Joe Biden was sitting with President Xi Jinping of China in an empty restaurant in the city of Chengdu. Speaking through a translator, Xi asked him whether he could “define America.”
Biden told Xi he could do so in one word: Possibilities.
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1YHMZHK ) Biden recalled that story during a speech Wednesday in New Orleans to the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual conference.
For Biden, the word “possibilities” applies equally to the future of cancer research in the United States. President Barack Obama this year tapped Biden to lead what he termed a “moonshot” initiative, which challenges the U.S. to accelerate cancer cures. On Feb. 1, the White House announced $1 billion in new spending to support the initiative.
Biden has a personal connection to cancer. His wife, Jill, who also addressed the crowd of more than 4,000, created the Biden Breast Health Initiative to help promote breast cancer screenings, after four of her friends were diagnosed with the disease in one year. And Biden’s son, Beau, the former attorney general of Delaware, died in May of brain cancer.
In a half-hour speech, Biden stressed the Obama administration’s commitment to meeting the initiative’s objectives through a variety of measures. Those measures include:
– Pushing for another $800 million to fight cancer in the fiscal 2017 federal budget, building on the $2 billion Congress approved in December for the National Institutes for Health
– Increasing the number of patients who participate in clinical trials
– Rewarding researchers who conduct studies to verify existing research
– Making it easier for cancer researchers to get grants.
“It seems to me we slow down our best young minds by making them spend years and years in the lab before” they are eligible for their own grants, Biden said. And once they become eligible, they spend a third of their time applying for grants.
“It’s like telling Derek Jeter to take several years off to sell bonds to build Yankee Stadium,” he added, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Biden acknowledged that pledging to wipe out cancer in this country will require a “redesign of the cancer research enterprise.”
But his suggestions found strong support from the American Association for Cancer Research. The audience applauded repeatedly through his speech.
Speaking of his commitment to realigning government programs to support streamlining cancer research, Biden said: “No one knows better than you that lives depends on it.”
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