Barack Obama’s State of the Union address included the announcement of a bold new push to cure cancer, which the president said would be led by none other than Vice President Joe Biden.
“Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer,” Obama said midway through his address. “Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done.”
“And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control,” he continued. “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”
Obama was referring to Biden’s personal lobbying at the tail end of 2015 to substantially increase federal spending on cancer research. His lobbying netted a $2 billion funding increase for the National Institutes of Health, plus $200 million for research into precision medicine, medical treatments tailored to individual patients which are often used for fighting cancer.
Cancer has strong personal relevance for Biden. Last May, his son Beau died of brain cancer, one of nearly 600,000 Americans to die of cancer in 2015. In his October speech announcing that he would not be running for president, Biden said American should launch a new “moonshot” against cancer.
It’s not immediately clear what the details are of Obama’s new national effort on cancer, or what Biden’s personal role will be as the head of the so-called “Mission Control.” But in an interview aired on CNN Monday night, Biden said he has met with over 200 researchers and philanthropists, and hopes to serve as a “convener” who can break down walls and make advances easier to achieve.
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