Joe Biden on Monday said ending cancer 'as we know it' was one of the reasons he ran for president as he supercharged his 'Cancer Moonshot' initiative with a shot of glamour from the Kennedy family.
Biden, who wants to cut cancer deaths in half over the next 25 years, said cancer can be transformed into a disease that can be managed and lived with.
He issued his new call to arms at the John F. Kennedy Library, on the anniversary of Prsident Kennedy's famous 'Moonshot' speech, where JFK rallied America to beat Russia to the moon - which was accomplished in 1969.
'When he set that goal, he established a national purpose that could rally the American people and a common cause. And he succeeded, 'Biden said of JFK.
'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. I believe we can usher in the same unwillingness to postpone - the same national purpose - that will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills to end cancer as we know it. And even cure cancers once and for all.'
The fight against cancer is personal for Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015. The Cancer Moonshot, originally created when Biden was vice president, came in the wake of Beau's death.
'This Cancer Moonshot is one of the reasons why I ran for president,' Biden said.
Biden noted cancer doesn't discriminate. 'We know this, cancer does not discriminate red and blue. It doesn't care if you're Republican or a Democrat. Beating cancer something we can do together. And that's why I'm here today.'
Biden was in Boston to deliberately set to echo Kennedy's famous 1962 speech, which was praised for its positive tone and its effectiveness at rallying Americans' to the president's cause.
Biden had Kennedy's daughter Caroline, who serves as his ambassador to Australia, at his side. He called her and her son Jack back to the stage after his remarks so they could all work the rope line together.
Caroline Kennedy praised Biden repeatedly in her opening remarks, tying her family's glamour to the current commander ini chief.
She said Biden 'embodies' the spirit of her father and drew comparisons to his work and that of her family's.
'He's living President Kennedy's call to service throughout his life and career,' she said of Biden. 'As president, he has restored the soul of America, advanced freedom and democracy around the world. For more than 50 years, President Biden has been fighting for working families, affordable health care access to a quality education, and always to honor our men and women in uniform.'
'But perhaps the most personal fight for him as the one against cancer. As Vice President he launched his own moonshot to end cancer as we know it. And with characteristic perseverance, he's still committed to that cause.'
Kennedy mentioned her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died of cancer. She also said Biden's presence at the library was special to her because it was also the date her parents got married in 1953. She is the eldest daughter and only living child of the former president and first lady.
The Kennedys weren't the only bold-faced names in attendance. Comedian David Letterman, who had a bout with skin cancer, was present for the president's remarks. Biden spoke to him after his speech.
The president also issued an executive order boosting the US biotech sector as part of the initiative, which invokes the national effort to land a man on the Moon.
Biden is pushing for government-backed efforts to coordinate and fund a multilayered fight against cancer, with the goal of halving cancer death rates in the next 25 years.
As he set off from Washington, Biden issued an order meant to bolster the trailblazing US biotech sector's efforts to take on growing commercial rivals in China.
The order brings federal support for 'areas that will define US biotechnology leadership and our economic competitiveness in the coming decades,' a senior Biden administration official told reporters.
The official said that while US biotech research leads the world, the industrial applications are increasingly in the hands of other countries.
'Unless we translate biotechnology innovation into economic and societal benefits for all Americans, other countries, including and especially China, are aggressively investing in this sector,' posing a 'risk,' the official said.
The White House says the US biotech industry is on the cutting edge of medical advances - recently seen in the rapid development of vaccines, tests and therapeutics to help manage the Covid-19 pandemic -- but that the potential scope goes much further.
The official, speaking to reporters, cited studies suggesting that 'before the end of the decade, engineering biology holds the potential to be used in manufacturing industry that accounts for more than one third of global output. That's equivalent to almost $30 trillion in terms of value.'
Growing areas for biotech industry include new plastics and rubbers, jet fuel, and environmentally friendly fertilizers.
The battle against cancer is personal for Biden: his son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 when Biden was vice president to Barack Obama.
The linkage to the Moon program will seek to raise public awareness and support ahead of midterm congressional elections where the Democrats face the possibility of a Republican sweep in Congress, something which would severely complicate the next two years of Biden's first term.
Caroline Kennedy told CNN she approved of the parallels drawn by Biden in the struggle to conquer the deadly disease.
'Sixty years after my father challenged Americans to land on the moon, President Biden is welcoming great challenges as new opportunities by setting us on a bold course to end cancer as we know it,' she said.
Biden's focus on the cancer fight comes as NASA is once again looking to return to the Moon.
Biden also will name Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, a longtime science adviser and who most recently served at the biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks Holdings Inc, as the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, a U.S. government-run biomedical research group.
At Ginkgo, Wegrzyn worked on applying synthetic biology to outpace infectious diseases - including COVID-19 - through biomanufacturing, vaccine innovation, and biosurveillance of pathogens at scale.
She also worked at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.
Biden's speech will be on the 60th anniversary of President Kennedy's Moonshot speech at Rice University.
In that now famous speech, Kennedy said: 'We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.'