President Joe Biden said Friday that after fighting the coronavirus pandemic, his government will fight another deadly disease: cancer.
“I want you to know that once we defeat Covid, we will do everything we can to end cancer as we know it,” Biden said in a speech after opening the massive Pfon coronavirus vaccine manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Almost 600,000 people will die of cancer in 2019. Nearly 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the US in 2021, American Cancer Society researchers estimate.
One of Biden’s sons, Beau Biden, died of an aggressive form of brain tumor at the age of 46.
Biden said two White House offices, the Science and Technology Advisory Council and the Science and Technology Policy Bureau, will be involved in developing an “advanced research effort into cancer and other diseases.”
Dr. Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, will jointly lead both offices, Biden said.
The president compared the initiative to DARPA, the Pentagon agency charged with testing new technologies.
As a presidential candidate, Biden suggested creating such an agency as part of his platform’s Made in America plank. Its campaign website called it the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H.
Then-candidate Biden reportedly raised the proposal frequently at fundraisers for private campaigns, though he rarely spoke about it at public events.
Biden’s forward-looking announcement seemed to send the message that his government has gotten a better grip on the pandemic.
That message was underscored by the location he intended to deliver it to: a 1,300 acre vaccine manufacturing facility where millions of doses of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine are manufactured, packaged, frozen and shipped.
“We’re now at a point where the average daily number of people vaccinated has nearly doubled since the week before I took office, to an average of 1.7 million per day,” said Biden, adding: ” We’re on track to exceed my commitment to “administer 100 million shots in his first 100 days as president”.
But “despite the progress, we are still in the teeth of a pandemic,” warned Biden.
He noted that new strains of the virus are emerging and that the U.S. is poised to soon pass the grim milestone of 500,000 deaths from Covid.
“If there is one message that needs to be given to everyone in this country, it is this: The vaccines are safe. Please take the vaccine for yourself, your family, your community, this country, when it is your turn and are available, “said Biden.
Biden urged Americans to continue taking precautions for their health and safety, including hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks.
“Look, I know it’s inconvenient, but you make a commitment when you do,” said Biden. “Everyone has to do their part for themselves, their loved ones and, yes, their country. It’s a patriotic duty.”