President Biden on Monday touted his vision for greatly reducing cancer deaths as a national cause that could inspire divided Americans to rally around a common goal.
Speaking from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston on the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s “moonshot” speech, Mr. Biden said the U.S. stands at an “inflection point” similar to the one the country faced under the Kennedy administration in 1962.
“President Kennedy set a goal to win the space race against Russia, to advance science and technology for all of humanity,” Mr. Biden said. “When he set that goal, he established a national purpose that could rally the American people to the common cause. And he succeeded.
“Now in our time, on the 60th anniversary of his clarion call, we face another inflection point, and together, we can choose to move forward with unity, hope and optimism,” he said.
Cancer research is personal to Mr. Biden. His son Beau died from an aggressive form of brain cancer in 2015.
Mr. Biden relaunched his cancer initiative, which he began as vice president in 2016, in February.
He’s called for an end to “cancer as we know it today” and a reduction of at least 50% in the age-adjusted death rate from cancer over the next 25 years.
On Monday, Mr. Biden appointed Dr. Renee Wegrzyn to lead the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, an agency envisioned as part of a new “moonshot” initiative to speed government research aimed at improving the ability to prevent, detect and treat a range of diseases including cancer.
Mr. Biden said Dr. Wegrzyn worked at two institutions that inspired the creation of ARPA-H, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.
She is a vice president of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks and head of innovation at Concentric by Ginkgo, where she specializes in using synthetic biology to combat diseases.
Mr. Biden also unveiled an executive order aimed at boosting domestic biotechnology capabilities and reducing U.S. reliance on foreign biomanufacturing.
“It’s not enough to invent technologies to save lives,” Mr. Biden said. “We need to manufacture advanced biotechnologies here in the United States.”
The order will help secure U.S. leadership in the development and production of key technologies used in products ranging from jet fuels to pharmaceuticals, he said.
“Today’s action is going to ensure that America leads the world in biotechnology and biomanufacturing — creating jobs, reducing prices, strengthening supply chains, so we don’t rely on anywhere else in the world,” he said. “Here in America, it will be made.”
Mr. Biden also touted his signature tax and climate bill, which includes provisions that will cut prescription costs for cancer patients.
“The Inflation Reduction Act is a godsend,” he said. “It will save people on one prostate cancer drug about $6,000 a year. Thousands of women are taking breast cancer treatments, they will see about a $7,000 a year savings.”
Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans said the price-negotiation aspect of Mr. Biden’s signature bill will be self-defeating as drugmakers respond to the threat of government-mandated prices.
“Unfortunately, President Biden’s socialist price controls for prescription drugs will jeopardize this leadership and his own cancer moonshot goals,” said Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky. “The socialist scheme he signed into law last month will increase drug costs when they launch, make America more reliant on China’s drug development and manufacturing supply chains, and lead to fewer cures. If we are to end cancer as we know it, one fewer cure or treatment is one too many.”
• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.